It sure didn’t look like he’d get there.
Paul Pierce entered tonight’s game 23 points shy of 20,000 for his career. There was no doubt Pierce would reach the milestone eventually, but as time wound down on the fourth quarter of tonight’s game, it just didn’t look like it was going to happen tonight.
Pierce scored 16 points before overtime but put up 12 points during the extra frame, helping the Celtics overcome a sloppy game and a talented Milwaukee team in a 105-102 overtime win over the Bucks.
The Celtics were lucky to get to overtime at all. Outside of a 15-4 run over a 1:32 span in the fourth quarter, the Celtics and Bucks played uninspired basketball Wednesday night at TD Garden. Maybe it was the back-to-back, but for whatever reason the game lacked flow outside of that 92-second span.
That run started with a Ray Allen three-pointer at the 2:58 mark of the fourth and ended with a Pierce layup at the 1:26 mark. In between where a trio of three-point plays, two by Kevin Garnett and one by Pierce. On the first, Garnett took a feed from Rajon Rondo and went hard to the rim, dunking the ball over Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut. The players tussled afterward and were assessed technical fouls, but the Celtics could live with the infraction. For the first time all game the team had flow and the building had life.
Pierce’s three-point play gave the Celtics their first lead of the quarter, while Garnett’s second triplet got the Celtics big man worked into a frenzy. After a day in which he had to answer to criticism for his choice of trash-talking words to Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva, Garnett pounded his chest and strutted to midcourt, soaking in the positive energy.
But the energy was short-lived, the Celtics frittering away their six-point lead in the final 1:20 seconds of the fourth. The Celtics had a chance to win it in regulation, but Rondo’s jumper hit back iron and bounced away. After a terrible first half in which his assist and turnover totals matched, Rondo finished the game with 17 points and 15 assists.
The first half was a tale of two quarters. The Celtics jumped out to a 25-16 lead after the first quarter, holding Milwaukee to 24-percent shooting in the period. But the Bucks couldn’t be stopped in the second quarter, hitting 11 of 20 shots to take the game into halftime tied at 47. Rondo, who set an NBA assist record through the first four games of the season, had a pedestrian four assists and four turnovers through 24 minutes. The teams went back and fourth in the third quarter, with both defenses buckling down to make the game anything but must-see television. The Bucks outscored the Celtics 16-15 in the period.
The fourth quarter started with a Doc Rivers technical and continued with offensive fouls on Glen Davis and Ray Allen. Rivers was clearly frustrated with the calls — as were the fans — but the truth is the Celtics weren’t in rhythm with or without the foul calls. It was a disjointed game, and it was ultimately won by a Celtics team that might not have pulled this one out last season. After starting the game 0 for 5 from the field, Andrew Bogut had a nice game, finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
The Celtics have tomorrow off before hosting another exciting team, the Chicago Bulls, on Friday night.
Final: Celtics 105, Bucks 102 (OT): That’s your ballgame. The Celtics hang on. Pierce finishes with 28 points in the win.
13.3 seconds OT, Celtics 101-97 Paul Pierce goes over the 20,000 career point mark in dramatic fashion. He’s the third Celtics player ever to do it, trailing Larry Bird and John Havlicek. But more on that later.
1:36 OT, Celtics 97-95 So much for that. O’Neal picked up his sixth foul, replaced by Marquis Daniels. Celtics going small here. They don’t really have a choice.
1:49 OT, Celtics 97-95 Jermaine O’Neal puts the Celtics up with a bucket. Good test for O’Neal here in these last two minutes with Big Baby unavailable.
3:08 OT, Tied at 95 Glen Davis picks up his sixth foul and is out of the game.
End regulation, Tied at 91: Rondo gets a pick from Garnett and shoots an open jump shot off the back rim. We’re going to OT.
5.2 seconds 4th quarter, Tied at 91: How does Carlos Delfino drive the lane and get a layup that wide open? Doc Rivers, screaming on the sideline, is wondering the same thing.
16.5 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 91-89: Ray Allen misses one of two and gives the Bucks a chance.
17.4 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 90-89: Corey Maggette drove and made two free throws, then Brandon Jennings picked Pierce’s pocket and took it the other way to cut the lead to 1. Don’t like that last possession, Pierce dribbling out top and driving with the clock winding down.
44.2 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 90-85: The Bucks still have a shot here. Plenty of shooters on this Milwaukee roster.
1:26 4th quarter, Celtics 88-84: That’s three consecutive 3-point plays for the Celtics. Pierce follows Garnett’s, and Garnett answers with another one of his own.
After another stop, Pierce finished on the break to give the Celtics their largest lead of the second half. Amazing how much momentum can be generated by a handful of plays. This place is rocking.
2:30 4th quarter, Bucks 82-80: Garnett dunks over Bogut plus the foul, but both players are called for technicals for some scuffling after the play.
4:38 4th quarter, Bucks 75-72: Finally, some momentum. Ray Allen missed a tying three that would have brought the house down, but at least the shot came in rhythm. This game is devoid of flow, but if the Celtics can string together a few solid possessions they can steal this one.
8:34 4th quarter, Bucks 67-66: An offensive foul by Ray Allen ends another Celtics possession. Glen Davis picked up an offensive foul on the previous trip. The Celtics have been called for 19 personals to 10 for the Bucks.
11:32 4th quarter, Tied at 64: Doc Rivers picks up a technical, and Jermaine O’Neal picks up his fifth personal foul, and things got a whole lot more interesting. No choice but to play Erden against Bogut now.
END 3d quarter, Bucks 63-62: Who likes offensive basketball? If you said yes you’re out of luck. Both teams buckled down in the third. Rajon Rondo has played a ridiculous 32 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see how the Celtics finish this game after playing in Detroit last night.
4:27 3d quarter, Bucks 55-53: Rondo called for an offensive foul going to the basket. The crowd doesn’t like it. Neglected to mention that despite Rondo’s down offensive night, he’s doing a heck of a job on Brandon Jennings (3 points, 2 assists).
5:49 3d quarter, Bucks 55-53: The Celtics are down below 50-percent shooting now. Not a great stat, considering the game was tied when the Celtics were above 50 percent. Andrew Bogut is having a nice game with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
Halftime, Tied at 47: It’s been a strange one. The Celtics shot 52 percent in the first half, the Bucks 40 percent, and yet the score is tied. Milwaukee’s taken 11 more shots, while the Celtics have 9 turnovers.
Both teams are coming off a back-to-back, which might favor the young Bucks. But the Celtic who has looked the most off has been Rajon Rondo, who has turned the ball over four times in ratio to his four assists. Rondo has driven the lane several times and gotten caught in the air with seemingly no plan. Maybe guys aren’t getting open for him. Either way the offense isn’t working.
Glen Davis picked up his third foul just before halftime, which could spell trouble for the Celtics. Jermaine O’Neal is playing well, but Semih Erden seems overmatched by Andrew Bogut.
4:49 2d quarter, Bucks 38-35: It’s coming too easily for the Bucks. After hitting just 5 of 21 shots in the first quarter, Milwaukee is 10 of 14 this quarter. The Celtics can’t afford to play this kind of defense in addition to being sloppy with the ball (8 turnovers).
9:02 2d quarter, Celtics 27-25: A 9-2 run by Milwaukee has the Bucks right back in this thing. Keyon Dooling has 6 points.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 25-16: The Celtics haven’t been their typical million-assist-to-no-turnover selves, but they’re playing suffocating defense to lead after the first. The Bucks are shooting 24 percent from the field.
Jermaine O’Neal did a great job on Andrew Bogut early, shutting him down for no points on 0-for-5 shooting.
2:53 1st quarter, Celtics 17-11: Well this is odd. Rajon Rondo has 3 turnovers and 1 assist to this point.
5:54 1st quarter, Celtics 9-8: Paul Pierce just executed the exact move he spent so much time practicing before tonight’s game, using a Jermaine O’Neal pick at the elbow as an invitation into a spin move and jumper. Pierce didn’t make the shot, but he earned a trip to the line.
9:20 1st quarter, Tied 2-2:Jermaine O’Neal swats a shot attempt by Andrew Bogut into the stands. Maybe last night was all it took for O’Neal to get a little bounce in his step.
Pregame: With all the Twitter talk out of the way, we can focus on what should be a great basketball game.