With home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs still available for the Boston Celtics, tonight's contest at home versus the Milwaukee Bucks in the regular season finale has plenty of meaning.
Milwaukee has nothing to play for, but the Celtics can have the backyard edge with a win tonight coupled by an Atlanta loss to Dallas. Boston, the fourth seed courtesy of its fifth straight Atlantic Division title, will take on the Hawks when the playoffs commence. The Celtics also own the tiebreaker between the teams.
The Celtics have won eight of their last 11 games and will shoot for their fifth consecutive triumph at home Thursday. They are coming off Tuesday's 78-66 victory over the Miami Heat and rested Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce started and played just under 18 minutes, finishing with eight points. Sasha Pavlovic scored a game-high 16 points and Marquis Daniels netted 13 for Boston, which improved to 23-9 at home and turned 25 Miami turnovers into 20 points. The loss for Miami gave Chicago the East's top seed.
"These games are still important," said Boston head coach Doc Rivers. "We know our rotation but someone's always going to help you in the playoffs."
Allen sat out for an eighth straight contest due to a sore ankle and is doubtful for tonight. Rondo is questionable and Garnett is not expected to play against the Bucks.
Milwaukee will miss the playoffs for a second straight year and fifth time in six tries. It is coming off last night's 90-85 loss to the Sixers in which Brandon Jennings scored a team-best 19 points and both Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders added 12 apiece in defeat.
"Guys played hard. We competed and hung in there," said Dunleavy.
Tobias Harris ended with 15 points for the Bucks, who had a two-game winning streak stopped and lost for the sixth time in nine tries. Bucks guard Monta Ellis (hand) and forward Ersan Ilyasova (thigh) did not play Wednesday and are questionable for this evening.
The Bucks are 14-18 away from Brew City and hope to avoid being swept in a season series by Boston for a second straight year. They have dropped the first two meetings of the season and five straight overall to Boston. The Celtics have won three in a row, seven of eight and 10 of the last 14 as the host in this matchup.