MILWAUKEE — With two losses already this season to the Bucks and clinging to a slim halftime lead over Milwaukee, the Boston Celtics received a simple message from coach Brad Stevens: shoot the ball.
The message was received, as the Celtics made 23 of 40 shots after the break to seal a 102-86 victory Monday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“Milwaukee was really in the paint, and we’re going to have to step up and shoot it in to win,” Stevens said. “There was no reason not to let it fly, so the guys did and knocked down some shots.”
Forward Jeff Green led the way, scoring 19 second-half points on 8-of-11 shooting. He finished 11-for-22 from the floor for 29 points.
The Celtics held a 60-58 lead through three quarters, but Green scored the first two buckets of the fourth, and his 3-pointer with 8:06 left made it a 10-point game.
From there, the Celtics took off, leading by as many as 17, and they cruised to their fourth victory in the past five games.
“I think we just tightened up a little bit defensively, got a few key stops,” said Boston center Kelly Olynyk, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. “We pushed the ball in transition, got some easy baskets. Jeff Green hit a bunch of big-time shots for us down the stretch to stretch the lead.””
Green played a season-high 44 minutes. Over his past four games, Green is shooting 45 percent from the field and is averaging 25 points per game.
“He hit shots today that were really good shots, and then he made some tough ones late,” Stevens said. “He got himself going by getting to the basket and by shooting it off screens … He missed his first one of the third quarter and then really shot it well the rest of the night.”
Olynyk also finished with 11 rebounds, one of two Celtics to post a double-double. Center Jared Sullinger had 13 points and 10 boards.
“If they can defend and rebound together at the end of that game, it’s great to have them in there because they can make so many different basketball plays,” Stevens said. “They can handle the ball, they can do all kinds of things. It was good to see them both with double-doubles. I was pleased with how those two young guys played.”
Boston (19-34) capitalized on 21 Milwaukee turnovers, turning them into 32 points.
The Bucks committed only three turnovers in the final quarter, but after shooting just under 50 percent through the first three periods, they went 2-for-10 to start the fourth and shot 31 percent in the final quarter.
“That’s the disappointing thing about a game like this,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “(The Celtics) played last night, but they seemed to be playing with more energy than we did.”
Point guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks with 22 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes of work.
“We went flat,” Knight said. “Our energy went down, and they took advantage of that.”
Milwaukee forward John Henson made his third straight start and finished with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He also blocked two shots, both in the first quarter. Henson has at least one block in each of his last 18 games, the longest active streak in the NBA.
The Bucks lost their third straight game and fell for the ninth time in the past 11. Now a league-worst 9-42 on the season, they are guaranteed a losing record for the ninth time in 10 seasons.
NOTES: After playing a season-high 37 minutes Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks, Celtics PG Rajon Rando did not travel with the team to Milwaukee. However, he could start playing the second game of back-to-backs in the near future as he works his way back from knee surgery, according to coach Brad Stevens. SG Avery Bradley was also unavailable and will undergo an MRI on his sore right ankle Tuesday. … Bucks C Larry Sanders suffered a broken bone near his eye will be out through All-Star break, according to coach Larry Drew. Sanders played just four minutes Saturday before taking a elbow from Houston Rockets G James Harden. Limited to just 23 games this season due to injuries and illness, Sanders is averaging 7.7 points and 7.2 rebounds this season but averaged 13.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in four games before his latest injury.
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