A player spit out turkey and it wasn't the weirdest thing to happen on an NBA court on Wednesday
PLUS: Celtics vs. Bucks was almost exactly what everyone has been saying it'd be, Scott Foster vs. Chris Paul: Infinity War and we look ahead to Day 6 of the NBA Cup.
Good morning. Let’s basketball.
Is there anything from the Celtics vs. Bucks showdown on Thursday night that registers as a surprise? Well, maybe two things:
Giannis Antetokounmpo shooting 7/16 in the paint is surprising.
Sam Hauser finishing a transition alley oop is surprising.
Other than that, this game was basically an entertaining re-enactment of a list of what folks likely thought about a prospective match-up between the new-look Celtics and the new-look Bucks:
The Bucks’ revamped defense would struggle to match up with the Celtics’ five-out offense.
The Celtics would struggle to contain the Damian Lillard-Giannis and Lillard-Brook Lopez pick-and-roll action.
The Celtics’ offense will get stiff and inefficient in crunch time.
Dame will take over the Milwaukee offense completely in crunch time.
As currently constructed, the Celtics are a little better than the Bucks.
And there you have it. A 119-116 win for Boston.
In the final 11 possessions, the Celtics scored 10 points. Take away the three intentional fouls leading to free throws at the end, and there was a stretch from about five minutes remaining in the fourth to the 24-second mark in which Boston scored five points in eight possessions. That let the Bucks cut a 16-point deficit to three. The lead was a little too big for Milwaukee to overcome, so kudos to Boston for building it. But still. It’s a known problem that the trades and the new assistant coaches didn’t fix.
Giannis having so much trouble near the rim is not a known problem, though the Celtics certainly have the length to bother him if he’s not hunting fouls (which he’s not, because the free throw shooting isn’t in a very good place). Lillard, meanwhile, started slow but came alive in the closing minutes, shooting six of the Bucks’ final 11 shots and making four of them. He got hung up on the rim on a pretty important dunk with 30 seconds left, but otherwise established Dame Time and, one imagines, a little bit of fear in Boston.
What strikes me as themes to watch in future battles between these teams — who seem destined for a long playoff series — is the Bucks’ reliance on Brook Lopez on both ends, Jaylen Brown’s offensive responsibility level (it’s pretty high!) and … uh, how to put this delicately? … coaching issues.
One item stood out on that front: Adrian Griffin went to pull Giannis in the third quarter, Giannis disagreed with that decision and stayed at the scorer’s table while having what ESPN’s Mark Jones termed a “spirited discussion” with Griffin, and then checked back in at the next dead ball. Between this type of a demonstrable power check and the fact that the Bucks have already abandoned Griffin’s imported defensive scheme to revert back to the Budenholzer-era drop coverage … it hasn’t been a perfect start for Griffin in Milwaukee. And that’s fine, because the rival team here is still getting comfortable with Joe Mazzulla as head coach, too. The issue is going to be when these guys have to coach against Erik Spoelstra and Nick Nurse. The Bucks and Celtics have talent differentials that help. But weird things happen in the playoffs, and having the experience, temperament and trust of your star players to handle them is important.
In any case, the Bucks and Celtics delivered exactly what you would expect them to deliver. We could get this another 10 times this season — maybe even in the NBA Cup knockout rounds, too! — so buckle in.
We Should Not Know This Much About Scott Foster
It remains a simmering problem for the NBA that even casual fans know some of their officials by name and likeness. Adam Silver cannot possibly think it is a good thing that Scott Foster in particular is as notorious as he has become.
That he used to talk to Tim Donaghy on the phone multiple times per day while Donaghy was betting on and possibly fixing games is known. That he has a major ongoing feud with Chris Paul is known. That he did a work pretending to be ignorant of Jack Harlow while mic’d up for an ESPN game so that he could then go viral badly lip syncing two lines of a Jack Harlow song in a choreographed video put out by the refs’ union.
Scott Foster clearly loves fame and attention. That is incongruous with the job of being an NBA official.
Maybe the league thought that the Chris Paul thing would fade away as the player ages out of prominence. The league thought wrong. CP3 is a key player for one of the most prominent teams in the NBA, and he’s getting kicked out an ESPN game for arguing with Scott Foster …