By: Kenny Doyle
The Celtics were able to pull out the win 96-89 over the Bucks thanks to dominant performances from Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. One game after the rookies led the team to a win over the Knicks, it was Kyrie and Al who combined for 51 points and carried the Celtics over Milwaukee on a night where the rest of their teammates combined to shoot only 12-46 (26%) from the field. On the defensive end, the Celtics had relatively good success stopping early MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Holding him to 28 points on 48% shooting, both of which are season lows.
After losing their first meeting of the season with the Bucks, the Celtics came into Milwaukee with a new game plan to attack the Bucks unique blend of height, length, and athleticism. They opted to start Daniel Theis, the main reason being that Brad Stevens wanted to have Aron Baynes off the bench to guard Milwaukee 6th man Greg Monroe. Monroe averaged 13.3 and 9 against the Celtics last season, both numbers significantly above his season averages. The Celtics signed Baynes in the offseason to help them defend players just like Monroe and he did the job tonight. Monroe ended with 8 points and 6 rebounds, his worst game against the Celtics in 2 years. As for Theis, he ended with 0 points and 5 rebounds on the night in 19 minutes.
Kyrie Irving had perhaps his best game so far as a Celtic. Kyrie had 24 points and 7 assists on 55% shooting and dazzled the national TV audience more than once with his elite handles and crafty finishing ability:
Kyrie has been met with scrutiny through the first 4 games for his lack of scoring and although tonight wasn’t a crazy scoring game for Kyrie, the dribble moves and fancy finishes dress up the game enough for Celtics fans to be happy with the performance.
Despite Kyrie’s electrifying highlights, the story of the night was Al Horford. Horford shot an unreal 11-14 and 4-5 from deep to go along with 9 boards, 4 assists, and a block. The Celtics needed Al’s scoring badly tonight and he more than delivered. Al has caught some flak in Boston for his lack of scoring in the past, despite contributing to the game in countless other ways, but tonight he silenced his doubters with one of his best games as a Celtic. Certainly no one expects Al to shoot 11-14 every night, but when the rest of the team isn’t knocking down their shots, Al may have to have more games scoring in the 20s than normal. Al has never been a scoring machine in his career and most level headed Celtics fans have come to accept his style of play. Al has a way of impacting the game without putting the ball in the hoop and although it may not be seen in the box score every night, his leadership, shooting, passing, and screening make him worth every penny.
Al and Kyrie really seem to be building a lot of chemistry with each other early on, which is great for the Celtics. Building chemistry on a team as new as this will take longer than 5 games, but these 2 already seem to be ahead of schedule. If Al and Kyrie can continue to build on tonight’s game and play off of each other like this, the Celtics may be able to stay in the running for one of the top 2 seeds in the east.
Photo: (Midland Daily News)