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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Allen to the bench the best move for the Celtics for now and the future

So Head Coach Doc Rivers has finally succumbed to the fact that former Texas guard Avery Bradley just plays better with the starting squad than Ray Allen does. Bradley, the 19th overall draft pick of 2010, was called up from the D-League Maine Red Claws on February 7th. When Ray Allen went down, Bradley’s minutes increased and he was comfortable enough with the team to score a career high 23 points against the Washington Wizards.

When Allen returned from his injury he remained on the bench instead of going back to the starting lineup. Some circles even say that Allen requested Bradley start but after a comment before their recent win over the 76er’s one is left to wonder.

“I don’t think it can happen for me to ultimately be comfortable with these 11 or so games we have left because none of us are getting into routines as far as settling in and what are roles are, getting practice time, understanding rotations and chemistry,” Allen told Pro Basketball Talk recently.

The franchise obviously knows that Allen will be a unrestricted free agent this summer but are content to let him come off the bench as long as Bradley is productive…and we ain’t talking points here folks. Let’s get one thing straight…Bradley is on the floor for defensive purposes…that he is becoming a steady scorer is just the icing on a cupcake. So when asked about coming off the bench, Allen responded

“If it makes us better offensively, I have no problem with it.”

The problem is it doesn’t make “offensive” sense, which is how Allen is geared. He is an offensive thinker but Doc knows that defense wins championships. With the Celtics holding the last five opponents (Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Pacers and the Sixers) to only 80.6 points per game which includes holding the Pacers to a season low 72 points, what are Allen’s chances he will be wanted by a team trying to get younger? It’s a chance both Allen and his coach are taking and, if the team has another let down come playoff time, Allen’s stock rises. If the Celts win it all, Allen could have very well started his last game as a Celtic.

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Bradley Scores 23 as Celtics Beat Wizards 88-76

Boston was without guards Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (head injury) but still had plenty to hold off the struggling Wizards.

Rajon Rondo had 11 assists, while Kevin Garnett finished with 10 points and six assists for the Celtics, who shot 22 for 34 (65 percent) in the first half. Boston led by as much as 25 before cooling off in the second half. The Celtics allowed Washington to get as close as eight, but ended the threat quickly and won for the third time in four games.

Jordan Crawford scored 20 points, and Kevin Seraphin had 15 points and 11 rebounds for Washington. John Wall added 12 points and nine assists, and Trevor Booker pulled down nine rebounds. The Wizards played without recently acquired Nene, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds Saturday in a loss at Atlanta.

Bradley’s previous high was 22, scored against New York last April. He hadn’t scored more than 12 in a game this season and passed that in the first quarter, making his first seven shots. Bradley had 19 at halftime and reached his career high on a 21-foot jumper to open the third quarter, putting the Celtics up 55-34.

The Wizards responded with a 13-0 run, shutting out the Celtics for 5:17. Crawford converted a three-point play with 7:56 left in the third to cut it to 55-43, Seraphin scored on a putback for Washington’s 11th straight point and then after Pierce turned it over at the top of the key, Crawford hit a long jumper to cut the lead to 55-47.

The game of streaks continued as the Celtics scored the next 10 points. Garnett stopped the drought with a pair of free throws with 5:17 left, Pierce hit a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play, and Bass added a jumper to put the Celtics back up 65-47.

The Celtics led 69-55 at the end of the third and didn’t let the Wizards get closer than 10 in the final period.

Notes: Washington’s 34 points in the first half was just two better than its season low. … Bradley scored 10 of the Celtics’ first 15 points … The Celtics led 27-12 after the first period. … Greg Stiemsma added 10 points for the Celtics. … Both teams had 15 turnovers.

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