Boston Celtics

Celtics-Bucks takeaways: Fatigued C's get blown out in Milwaukee

The Celtics were overmatched in what marked their fifth game in seven nights.

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Three Key Storylines

  • Fatigue vs. fresh legs
  • C's can't buy a 3
  • Bucks honor Jrue Holiday

On Thursday, the Boston Celtics played like a team that had to travel for the second night of a back-to-back immediately after a draining overtime win.

The C's couldn't keep up with the rested Milwaukee Bucks as they were blown out at Fiserv Forum, 135-102. The Bucks exploded out of the gate with 41 first-quarter points, went on a 25-0 run, and led by as many as 43 in the rout.

Boston's 43-point deficit marked its largest since it trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers by 45 in April 2015. Milwaukee earned that lead by shooting a blistering 57.1 percent from the field in the first half, including 11-for-22 from 3-point range. The Celtics shot just 32 percent through the first two frames and were an uncharacteristic 1-for-16 from beyond the arc.

Bobby Portis (28 points), Giannis Antetokounmpo (24 points), and Damian Lillard (21 points) did most of the damage for the Bucks. Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser led the Celtics with 21 and 15 points respectively as Boston's starters rested for the entire second half. Oshae Brissett added 13 points off the bench, including a thunderous dunk in the first quarter.

The Celtics will get a much-needed day off before returning home to host their former head coach Ime Udoka and the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. Before we turn the page to that matchup, here are three takeaways from Thursday's game.

Fatigue vs. fresh legs

Some will frame this as a statement win for the Bucks or an embarrassing loss for the Celtics. However, it's pretty clear that fatigue was the primary factor in Boston's demise.

The Celtics arrived at Fiserv Forum on the second night of a back-to-back following an emotional overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Thursday's matchup was their fifth game in the last seven nights. Meanwhile, the Bucks took their home court after getting the last two days off.

For a team with that kind of disadvantage, getting off to a solid start is crucial. The C's were unable to do so as Milwaukee outscored Boston 41-23 in the first quarter. Right off the bat, it was obvious which team was playing with fresh legs.

The night only got worse for the Celtics in the second quarter, when the Bucks ripped off a 25-0 run in which Boston failed to tally a point for 6:37. Milwaukee took a 37-point lead into the half.

Knowing the game was out of reach, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla sat his starters for the entire second half. At that point, rest was the priority with the C's set to return home and have just one day off before hosting their former coach Ime Udoka and the Rockets.

The next time the Celtics and Bucks meet will be March 20 at TD Garden. Fortunately for Boston, it'll have a day to rest before that showdown.

Bucks dominate from deep

Another telltale sign the Celtics were gassed: they couldn't buy a bucket from beyond the arc. They shot a woeful 1-for-16 from 3-point range in the first half while the Bucks went 11-for-22.

No Celtics starters made a 3-point shot. They were a combined 0-for-10 before being benched for the second half.

Joe Mazzulla gives his take on the Celtics 135-102 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The bench unit helped boost the C's 3-point percentage to 26.5 (9-for-34), but that was only good for trimming the deficit to 33. The Bucks stayed hot even after sitting their starters and finished 18-for-42 (42.9 percent) from 3.

Payton Pritchard (2-for-8, 21 points), Sam Hauser (4-for-8, 15 points) and Svi Mykhailiuk (2-for-3, 9 points) were the only Celtics players to make more than one 3-pointer in the game.

Milwaukee honors Jrue Holiday

The one positive moment for the Celtics came in the first quarter, when Jrue Holiday received a well-deserved tribute in his first game back in Milwaukee since being traded by the Bucks in the offseason.

The fans at Fiserv Forum gave Holiday a standing ovation as a tribute video played on the jumbotron. You can watch the tribute video and the reaction from the crowd below.

Holiday spent three seasons with the Bucks and helped them to an NBA championship in 2021. He averaged 18.5 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds through 193 games played with Milwaukee while earning first-team All-Defensive nods in 2021 and 2023.

Before sitting the second half of Thursday's game, Holiday tallied six points (2-9 FG, 0-4 3-PT) to go with four rebounds and two assists.

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