The Boston Celtics opened up a shortened 2020-21 season facing the Milwaukee Bucks at home in front of an empty TD Garden. As far as open-nighters goes, this was definitely strange one to witness. The PA played faux crowd noises throughout as the Celtics paid tribute to legendary broadcaster, coach and player Tommy Heinsohn from the outset.
In a special gesture, the franchise made sure the team wearing the familiar Kelly green jerseys of Boston sporting the word TOMMY across the singlet collar in honour of legendary, larger-than-life Celtics great Tommy Heinsohn.
Tonight, we honor a Legend. Tommy Heinsohn is the only person that was involved in all 17 Championships.
The 8 banners lowered for tonight’s game have a special significance in Tommy’s legacy (1/2) pic.twitter.com/y4CHk4rqHM
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 23, 2020
The Celtics first offensive possession saw Smart dump-off a neat pass to newcomer Tristan Thompson who scored on his first points as a Celtic. The scrappiness Boston showed in the preseason was on display early as both teams sized one another up. With both teams integrating new players, the play early was less than stellar. Donte DiVincenzo was crucial to pacing Milwaukee early making a pair of triples with 8 points in the first 6 minutes.
Fellow newcomer to Boston Jeff Teague came in as an energetic spark first of the bench hitting on a pair of triples. Grant Williams also provided some bench coring hitting on his own three-pointer as Boston kept pace with Milwaukee 34-31. With the quarter coming to end Boston’s bench provided a lift, here Grant Williams pokes the ball away from Connaughton and Jaylen Brown found Teague in stride to knock down the transition three-point basket.
With NBA basketball back, so too were the bizarre refereeing decisions. A missed goal tend by Giannis followed by a clear backcourt violation highlighted by the penultimate head scratcher decision – an offensvie foul called as the Celtics Grant Williams throwing a clear lob and score to Robert Williams III which was denied an AND-1 decision.
Jeff Teague’s hot preseason form continued into the second as he paced Boston with 10 points. Struggling with his offensive game early, Jaylen Brown looked to turn things around at the other end, with a superb chase down block, on the red-hot DiVicenzo. The resulting play for Boston was a Semi Ojeleye EURO STEP basket in transition (no, that isn’t a typo).
Boston would give up 16 first-half fast break points before clamping down of D, forcing 8 Milwaukee turnovers whilst going on a 10-0 run to take the lead as Jayson Tatum was on the bench to the end of the first half. Jaylen Brown’s second triple of the game at the buzzer and his 10th straight point for Boston saw the Celtics take a 64-59 lead into the break.
The Bucks came out hungry in the third, as All-Stars Middelton and Giannis impacted the scoreboard immediately gaining back-to-back baskets and fueled the Bucks back into the lead. Marcus would stand his ground on a Giannis pivot into Smart’ jersey numbers as he drew the charge and the Greek national’s 2nd foul. Less than 2 minutes later, Smart would yet again draw a crucial charge on Giannis leaving Coach Bud the option to either bench the MVP or leave him in with 3 personals.
With momentum shifting back to Boston, Brown and Teague continued to fuel Boston’s lead into double digits. A set of rhythm three-pointers by Jayson Tatum saw Boston extend the lead to 101-84. The second was gorgeous, as he sized up Giannis one-on-one and stepped back to drain a deep look.
Boston somewhat took the foot off the pedal in the opening of the fourth as Middleton came alive hitting on big buckets to claw back into it. From there it was a classic struggle back-and-forth, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just the first game of the season, such was the intensity.
Grant Williams drew Giannis’ fourth foul, Tristan Thompson went into the lane and scored a big and-1 bucket and flexxed. However, Giannis (34 points) was the story of the 4th, reeling off 15 fourth quarter points before the 6-minute mark, translating to a Milwaukee 23-8 run to get it back even 113 apiece.
The Bucks and Celtics both had heavy legs late, as both showed signs of fatigue. A Jaylen Brown (33 points) floater layin and Jayson Tatum (30 points, 6-13 3 pts) square up on mid-ranger to get the lead 119-117. New summer signing for Milwaukee Jrue Holiday (25 points) calmly sank a three pointer at the other end to regain the lead 120-119.
ENTER Jayson Tatum, left dribble step back and bank shot from deep. Game over.