Pierce Scores 12 as Celtics Top Bucks 87-74

Avery Bradley added 14 points for the Celtics, who were nearly back at full strength in their final tuneup before opening the playoffs at Atlanta on Sunday.

Boston used its returning starters sparingly after pulling ahead by as much as 21 in the first half. The only starter missing was Ray Allen, who has been out the last two weeks with a sore right ankle.

Rondo, who had missed three straight with a sore lower back, had 12 assists in the first half, extending his streak to 24 games with at least 10 assists. It’s the longest streak in the NBA since John Stockton reached double-figure assists in 29 straight in 1992.

Kevin Garnett sat the last two games out to rest an injured hip flexor. He played 11:04 against the Bucks, all in the first half, and had four points, two rebounds and three assists. Mickael Pietrus returned after missing four games with a sore right knee and scored nine points.

Tobias Harris led Milwaukee with 17 points. Jon Leuer added 15 points and Brandon Jennings scored 12 for the Bucks, who were 28-28 on April 7 but never could return to .500, finishing the season at 31-35 with two straight losses.

Boston’s Ryan Hollins tied his career high with four blocks and scored nine points for Boston, which went up 2-0 on Pierce’s layup 17 seconds in and never let go of the lead.

Pierce scored the first five points of the game and had a dozen in the first half despite playing just 6:41. He left early in the first quarter with a sprained left big toe and the Celtics said he was unlikely to return. He returned for the end of the second quarter and scored five as Boston took a 60-42 lead into halftime.

Hollins scored seven points as Boston opened the second period on a 13-2 run and held Milwaukee without a field goal for the first 3:52.

Keyon Dooling started the scoring with a 3-pointer, and Hollis followed with a dunk, a three-point play after dunking an offensive rebound, and an 11-footer to put Boston up 31-20. E’Twaun Moore added a 3-pointer with 9:09 left in the period and Milwaukee called time out, down 34-20 after trailing by just three entering the quarter.

Notes: The Celtics won nine of their last 12 after a two-game losing streak in early April. … Boston C Greg Stiemsa missed his second straight game with a sore right foot. … Carlos Delfino (groin) and Monta Ellis (right hand) did not travel with the Bucks for the regular-season finale. … Bradley was the only Boston starter to score in the third quarter, finishing with eight points in the period.

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Pavlovic Rallies Celtics to 78-66 Win Over Heat

Rest and recovery were of much greater importance as both teams looked ahead to the postseason and patched together lineups that hardly resembled last year’s second-round playoff series.

The result was sloppy at times, but turned into a relatively even matchup before the seldom-used Celtics rallied for a 78-66 win over the starless Heat on Tuesday night.

Sasha Pavlovic led Boston with a season-high 16 points, scoring 12 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away by shooting 50 percent (11 for 22) in the period and forcing Miami into eight of its season-high 25 turnovers.

“Well, someone had to win the game and we did, which was really nice,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “You know, these games are still important, probably for both teams.”

But not important enough to risk anybody’s playoff status.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were out for the Heat. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo didn’t play for the Celtics.

Rivers said Rondo and Garnett should be back in the lineup on Thursday when Boston hosts Milwaukee in the final game of the regular season. By rallying for a win Tuesday, the Celtics — locked into the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference as a division winner — can still get home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs against Atlanta with another victory on Thursday and a loss by Hawks. Atlanta heads into the season finale with a one-game lead but Boston won the season series.

The Celtics would prefer to open the playoffs on the road with a healthy lineup than be back at home with Rondo (back), Garnett (hip flexor) or Allen (bone spurs) still hobbled by injuries.

“We’ll see,” Rivers said. “It would be nice to put some more pressure and force Atlanta to have to win.”

Anyone who bought a ticket to this game months ago, anticipating an Eastern Conference showdown was disappointed. Instead, it was the Heat JV taking on the Celtics Lite.

Bosh didn’t dress again because of a left hamstring strain. James and Wade were still in warmups and didn’t come to the bench until after the starting lineups were announced and although they were listed as active, they never entered the game.

Instead of trying to catch Chicago for the top seed in the East, the Heat are now locked in at No. 2.

“We wanted to make sure going into the last week with a quick turnaround that we were ready for this weekend,” Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said. “We had legitimate injuries. We weren’t just sitting guys.”

Dexter Pittman had 12 points, James Jones scored 11 and Udonis Haslem grabbed 13 rebounds for the Heat, whose 25 turnovers were a season high. Miami failed to score 20 in any quarter and had just 16 in each of the final two periods.

“We made too many turnovers and they capitalized on them,” Jones said. “We did some good things, but just not enough so we are locked into the second seed and we are focused on trying to correct some of our mistakes as we move into the playoffs.”

Marquis Daniels finished with 13 points, Brandon Bass had eight points and eight rebounds for the Celtics. Paul Pierce finished with eight points. He started the game, but sat out the fourth quarter while Pavlovic thrilled the remaining fans as the Celtics improved to 3-1 against the Heat this season.

“I started kid of slow in the first half. Doc was on me about that,” said Pavlovic, who 0 for 2 while going scoreless in the first half. “I just cam out in the second half and played as hard as I could defensively. Whenever I had an open shot, I just took it.”

Pavlovic was 5 for 6 in the fourth quarter, hitting two 3s while scoring 12.

The Celtics had almost as many turnovers (7) as points (10) in the first quarter and failed to score until a little past the midpoint of the opening period. But after the sloppy start, Boston’s patchwork lineup came together in the third quarter, tying it with a 10-0 run late and then outscoring the Heat 10-4 to start the fourth.

“It wasn’t a pretty game — obviously, with 25 turnovers,” Spoelstra said. “However we got to that point, we were still tied halfway through the fourth quarter. It just went from there.”

Sean Williams hit two free throws to put Boston up 58-54, then Pavlovic pulled up with a baseline jumper for a 60-54 lead with 6:35 remaining and Miami called a time out.

Pavlovic continued to pick apart the Heat, driving for a dunk that put the Celtics up 62-56, then hitting a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to nine with 4:45 left.

Pavlovic’s previous high for the season was 10, two fewer than he scored in the final quarter.

Pierce hit a jumper, fed Bass with a pass under the basket for a dunk and then Pavlovic hit a jumper to get the Celtics started on a 10-0 run that tied it at 46-all late in the third quarter. It was tied at 50 entering the fourth. Daniels stole the ball from Juwan Howard and took it uncontested for a dunk that put the Celtics up 54-52, Boston’s first lead since 18-17 in the second quarter.

The Celtics are at home Thursday against Milwaukee while the Heat close out the regular season at Washington

Haslem and Mario Chalmers were the only regular Miami starters while Pierce and Bass were Boston normal starters in the opening lineup.

NOTES: The Celtics didn’t score until Pierce’s turnaround jumper with 5:45 left in the first quarter, cutting Miami’s lead to 11-2. … The Celtics matched their season-low for a quarter with just 10 points in the first period. … The Heat knocked the Celtics out in the second round of the playoffs last year, winning the series 4-1. … One of the loudest cheers of the night was when the big-screen monitor showed highlights of the Boston Bruins’ win over Washington in Game 6 on Sunday. The Bruins host the Capitals on Wednesday night in Game 7.

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Boston Celtics Tickets

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