BOSTON (AP) — The World Series trophy was in the building. Bill Russell was courtside. And the next Boston Celtics championship seems so very far away.
The Celtics opened the season at home on Friday night without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce or Doc Rivers — or Rajon Rondo, for that matter — and gave away a 22-point second half lead as the Milwaukee Bucks won 105-98 for their first victory of the season.
The loss spoiled the home debut of new Celtics coach Brad Stevens and dampened the cheer in the city following the Red Sox victory in the World Series on Wednesday.
Zaza Pachulia had 20 points and nine rebounds, making two free throws with 44 seconds left to give the Bucks their first lead since the opening basket. It was the second straight night Milwaukee fell behind early, having spotted the New York Knicks to a 25-point lead before coming back to tie it — and then lose — on Wednesday.
"We have to figure this out, getting off to such a bad start," said Bucks coach Larry Drew, who earned his first victory after taking over for Jim Boylan. "I've got to get my finger on it. Two straight games where we just got off to bad starts. It hasn't been great execution. We're just putting too pressure on ourselves defensively."
Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner took the court before the game with the World Series trophy, and Russell was also courtside a few hours after a statue of him was unveiled near City Hall. The 11-time NBA champion was honored during a first-half timeout, and Stevens made sure his team watched.
"There are things that are bigger than the game, although right now I don't feel good about life," the former Butler coach said. "To honor Bill Russell and to have us be in a huddle while they're honoring Bill Russell wouldn't be right."
John Henson had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks, who scored the last 10 points of the game. In its opener on Wednesday, Milwaukee rallied to take a lead with 3:13 left before giving up 10 of the last 12 points.
"The second time, same (bad start)" Pachulia said. "In New York, we just couldn't finish out the game. We have to fix the mistakes we make."
Vitor Faverani scored 12 points with 18 rebounds for Boston. Brandon Bass and Jeff Green each had nine rebounds for the Celtics, who scored 20 of the first 26 points in the game and led 72-50 with 19 minutes to play.
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