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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Hawks Beat Short-Handed Celtics 97-92

The Hawks (38-25) are in line to be the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Celtics (37-27) are on track to be No. 5. This, however, looked nothing like a playoff game early.

Both teams shot over 50 percent and Atlanta took a 58-49 halftime lead while Boston guard Avery Bradley scored 17 of his career-high 28 points.

Boston left Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus at home with injuries, and perennial All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce made the trip to Atlanta but Celtics coach Doc Rivers rested both stars after playing 11 games in 15 days.

Even without five players who either start or play big minutes, the Celtics pulled within one point five times in the fourth quarter.

Johnson’s three-point play with 1:56 left gave Atlanta a 90-86 lead, and the Hawks held on for their first win in three games against Boston. Josh Smith had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta, and Keyon Dooling scored 17 points for the Celtics.

The Hawks lost a home game earlier this season when Miami Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James did not play, and there was danger of a repeat Friday, especially when Dooling scored on a layup with 2:33 left to close the deficit to 87-86. Johnson’s three-point play came moments later.

If the teams finish with the same record, Boston would be considered the fourth seed by virtue of being a division champion. Plus, the Celtics beat the Hawks in two of three regular-season meetings.

Should Atlanta finish with a better record that would supersede Boston’s division title in determining home court in a head-to-head playoff matchup.

NOTES: The Celtics signed 6-foot-10 C-F Sean Williams, who averaged 15.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots for the Texas Legends of the D-League. Williams, who played at Boston College, also averaged 3.6 points and 1.6 rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks. He was drafted by the Nets 17th overall in 2007, and has career NBA averages of 4.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. To make room, Boston requested waivers on injured C-F Jermaine O’Neal. . . . The Celtics may be back to full roster strength for their next game, Tuesday against the Heat in Boston.

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Celtics’ Allen Out, Amare May Return Friday for NY

Allen took part in the morning shootaround, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers believed he was fine. But Allen said he was already feeling pain and could tell by later in the day he wouldn’t be able to play.

The veteran shooting guard missed his fifth consecutive game. He said running straight is fine, but has trouble moving sideways because of the pain.

“Everything forward is good for me. Shooting is not bad, it’s when I start moving laterally is when I start noticing it, and then there’s like a heavy clunkiness that starts to appear in my ankle coming around screens,” he said. “That’s kind of what starts limiting me and then it stays there.”

Allen said he doesn’t believe he needs any further tests after having an MRI about two weeks ago. He and Rivers both said it was too soon to make a decision about Wednesday against Orlando.

The Celtics were also without swingman Mickael Pietrus, who returned to Boston because of pain in his knee which Rivers assumed came from playing three straight nights after a lengthy absence because of a head injury.

Stoudemire hasn’t played since March 24 because of a bulging disk in his back. He will also sit out Wednesday at New Jersey, but interim Knicks coach Mike Woodson says he could play Friday at Cleveland if he doesn’t have any setbacks after practicing Thursday.

Woodson said Stoudemire was “feeling pretty good” and said he will be in the starting lineup when he returns, rather than bringing him back gradually off the bench.

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