Input on paltry (56 points) output
Earl Barron entered last night’s Celtics-Bucks game with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter, playing on his second 10-day contract with Milwaukee. And in 6 minutes 48 seconds of action, he became the Bucks’ leading scorer.
Barron paced Milwaukee with 10 points while the rest of his teammates — appearing uninterested and perhaps dazed from the Kelly green of the Celtics’ St. Patrick’s Day uniforms — combined to hit 18 of 63 shots in a historic performance for the franchise. The Bucks’ 56 points in an 87-56 loss to the Celtics was the lowest in their 42-year history in Milwaukee, and it was the fewest allowed by Boston in the shot-clock era.
Milwaukee couldn’t have appeared more different from the club that pushed the Celtics to the final minutes March 6 in Wisconsin or even Saturday night, when the Bucks scored 102 points and shot 52 percent in a resounding win over the 76ers.
A club that believes it’s fully capable of making a run for the eighth and final playoff spot was left to ponder this putrid showing. The Bucks scored 38 points through the first three quarters, and only Barron saved further embarrassment with his Michael Jordan-like spurt in the final period.
And when Milwaukee had a chance to save face with two free throws to avoid the Celtics’ record and to tie the franchise-low output, Keyon Dooling missed two free throws badly with 22 seconds left, a testament to Milwaukee’s total lack of execution and enthusiasm.
Milwaukee is 1 1/2 games behind Indiana and Charlotte for the final playoff spot, but last night confused the previously surging Bucks.
Are they a contender or just a club that capitalized on games against also-rans Washington and Cleveland?
“That’s about as humiliating a defeat as you’ll ever see,’’ Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “Right at the jump ball [Rajon] Rondo got right up into Brandon [Jennings], they got right up into our guards, and they got us on our heels and took our competitive fight away from us. We pretty much just gave in to it. We had a hard time even just dribbling the ball. We’d take a couple of dribbles, fumble it, had a hard time delivering the ball to each other. And we got some open looks. We didn’t make those either.’’
Most surprising about Milwaukee’s effort was that the Bucks had been a thorn for the Celtics in past years, fighting them deep into games with their difficult interior defense, physical big men, and aggressive rebounders. Former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut had averaged 14.6 points and 9.2 rebounds in 13 career games. In 25 minutes last night, he scored 8 points with 8 rebounds on just six shots, looking like a shell of himself.
“They just kept us to one side of the floor,’’ he said. “The pick-and-rolls didn’t work so well against them. We come off pick-and-rolls and were coming towards halfcourt instead of going to the basket. When we finally started doing that, we couldn’t make shots.
“Records are made to be broken. That’s part of pro sports. You are going to have a bad game, you can’t dwell on it.’’
When Milwaukee is playing well, the matchup with Boston may be favorable. The standings show they have little shot at catching the 76ers for the seventh spot even with a major late push, so the Bucks are focusing on facing either the Celtics or Chicago Bulls and getting healthy.
What was interesting about last night was that Bogut did not play in the meeting eight days ago and the Bucks were much more competitive. Jennings outplayed Rondo in that 89-83 Milwaukee loss, scoring 23 points with five assists, but he responded with a tame 8 and 3, as the Celtics’ pick-and-roll defense zapped him of all of his aggression and turned him into a dribbler, looking for creases that didn’t exist.
“They brought a lot of intensity and we didn’t match it,’’ said Jennings. “We just didn’t have it. We couldn’t make shots and you know what happens when we don’t make shots, everything goes downhill.
“The last time we played, I think being shorthanded, we just went out there and just played like we had nothing to lose and nothing mattered, so we were out there just hooping. Tonight, it was just a whole different kind of aspect of how we approached the game.’’
The Bucks are definitely in the Celtics’ consciousness. They are a team Boston doesn’t particularly like to play because when they are clicking, with Jennings running the offense and popping 3-pointers and Bogut clogging the paint and hitting short jumpers, they are a handful.
Last night was a reflection of how strange the NBA can be on a nightly basis. The 76ers look like a tough playoff opponent in beating the Celtics on Friday, and then succumb to the Bucks, 102-74, Saturday. And the Bucks, winners of three straight games and getting healthier, put up a franchise-worst performance with little resistance.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.