BOSTON – There were still 86 seconds left to play Thursday night, when the Boston Celtics canned their franchise record-setting 20th 3-pointer of the game over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Eighty-six seconds left to play in the third quarter, that is.
The C’s made shot after shot from beyond the arc in a 3-point barrage like they’ve never experienced before. All the while, they dared the Bucks to try to stop them, but Milwaukee just couldn’t find the solution.
By game’s end, Boston had knocked down 24 triples on 55 attempts – also a franchise record. It demolished the team’s previous game-high of 19 made treys and fell just one shy of the NBA record, set by the Cleveland Cavaliers two seasons ago.
With the help of those two-dozen 3-point makes, the Celtics also set a season high in points, as they edged the Bucks 117-113 in an offensive barnburner.
So, how did Boston manage to break its previous franchise mark with more than 25 percent of the game still left to play?
The answer is simple: “We were open,” said Marucs Morris, who connected on 5-of-8 from deep including the record-setter. “We were open, so we let them have it.”
The Bucks struggled all night long in defending Boston on pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops around the perimeter. Their bigs would often lag back into the paint on such plays, leaving Celtics players all alone beyond the arc.
All the while, three words played over and over inside Kyrie Irving’s head: “Get ‘em up. Get ‘em up.”
Elaborating on that mindset, Irving explained, “They (our looks) were wide open. If they’re going to play defense like that, then I don’t see why not.”
While Milwaukee’s lack of perimeter defense certainly played a role in the shootout, Boston still deserves most of the credit. That’s because its ball movement against the Bucks was as fluid as it’s been all season.
The Celtics struggled at times to move the ball efficiently during the first week or so of the campaign, but on Thursday night they made it look easy.
“We’re having fun,” said Irving, who dished out a game-high seven assists, while also knocking down six 3-pointers as part of a 28-point effort. “I don’t like to say that we’re playing care-free, but I think that we’re making the decisions that we want and we’re playing off one another.
“Before we were not necessarily being aggressive in reading and reacting, but now we’re just playing off one another and reading and reacting. We have options, we understand what our offense is, and I just think we’re dialing into what we’re capable of doing out there.”
Coach Brad Stevens began to see signs of such fluidity last Thursday during their 16-point comeback win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
“Since the second half of the OKC game, we’ve played pretty good offensively,” said Stevens. “We’ve gotten good shots. We’ve generated good ones. Tonight, we didn’t settle as much; we still had some possessions we’d like to have back, but I thought that we took what the defense gave us. We got to the second side of the floor and we found open shooters.”
And the C’s sure had a lot of options. Six different players knocked down multiple triples, including each member of the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Al Horford (four makes), Marcus Morris (five makes), Semi Ojeleye (two makes) and Irving (six makes) all set season-highs from beyond the arc.
Even with all of those makes, the Celtics still felt that they left a few on the table, especially during the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. The team missed its final five 3-point attempts during that span, when all it needed was one to fall to tie the NBA record.
“I thought they were all really good looks,” said Hayward, who contributed a trio of triples. “We back-rimmed most of them, too.”
But was there any disappointment in not hitting the league’s all-time mark?
“No, not really,” Hayward stated with a shrug of his shoulders. “Hopefully we just do it again.”