Celtics Move 3 Games Ahead of Bucks in Ping-Pong Ball Race

April 5, 2007

Celtics Win with Loss

MILWAUKEE - Come lottery time in May, the Celtics may look back on their 98-89 loss to the Bucks last night as one of the most important victories of the season. The defeat put the Celtics three games ahead of Milwaukee in the ping-pong ball race. A Celtics win would have pulled the Bucks within a game of Boston for the second-worst record in the NBA.

The Bucks exploited a Celtics team sans its top two scorers - Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson, neither of whom made the trip  and without a single active player with more than three years of NBA experience. Those factors were fatal as the Bucks shot 58.3 percent in the first half and 48.1 percent for the game.

Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 16 points. Allan Ray and NBA Development League pickup Kevinn Pinkney, who was signed to a 10-day contract yesterday, had 15 points apiece. The highlight for Boston came when Ryan Gomes nailed a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer that cut the Milwaukee lead to 53-52. Riding that momentum, the Celtics used a 15-5 run carrying over from the first to the second half to take a 64-58 lead with 7:54 left in the third. But it was quickly erased and the Celtics never led the rest of the way.

Boston had no answer for diminutive Bucks guard Earl Boykins. The 5-foot-5-inch wonder had 32 points, 4 shy of his career high. The Celtics tried everything to stop him, including a playful push from the bench late in the game.

"Earl killed us," said coach Doc Rivers. "He's a crafty little dude."

The game had the feel of an exhibition. Pierce and Jefferson were missing, and the Bucks were without star Michael Redd (left knee pain), point guard Mo Williams (left knee pain), and forward/center Brian Skinner (ear infection). All three had started in Milwaukee's 119-101 loss to the Hornets the night before, with Redd pouring in 27 points. The Bucks also were without Charlie Villanueva, who underwent right shoulder surgery March 27, and Andrew Bogut (left foot sprain). Both players were shut down on March 21.

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