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Pierce scores 25, Celtics snap Bucks' winning streak

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Associated Press
3/23/2012 12:02:46 AM
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MILWAUKEE -- With a team led by three veteran stars playing the seventh game of a taxing eight-game road trip, it wouldn't have been shocking to see the Boston Celtics simply run out of gas.

Instead, they had more than enough energy to slow down and disrupt the suddenly streaking Milwaukee Bucks.

Paul Pierce scored 25 points to help Boston to a 100-91 victory over Milwaukee on Thursday night, snapping the Bucks' six-game winning streak.

"It's a good win definitely tonight, especially the way Milwaukee's been playing as of late," Pierce said. "This is a mentally strong group. We understand it's been a long trip. This is a group that wants to get the next win and make it a great trip."

Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Mickael Pietrus scored 13 points for the Celtics, who improved to 4-3 on the long road trip.

"These last two wins have been big," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We felt like this game, we would have enough rest to play this game. We took two days off and that helped us."

Brandon Jennings had 19 points for Milwaukee.

It was the Bucks home debut for Monta Ellis, who was acquired along with forward Ekpe Udoh in a trade with the Golden State Warriors last week. Ellis, who went first in pregame introductions and received a loud ovation, scored 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting.

Ellis said he didn't feel any additional pressure in front of his new hometown fans, and is getting as comfortable as can be expected with his new team.

"It's still up and down, but I feel comfortable where I'm at," Ellis said. "Just got to knock some shots down."

Milwaukee came in with four straight games with 30-plus assists as a team. They had 23 on Thursday, but committed 15 turnovers and struggled to move the ball down the stretch.

"They took us out of that," Drew Gooden said.

Gooden struggled after several recent strong offensive performances, scoring six points on 2 for 12 shooting.

"I didn't have my best game, Monta didn't have his best game," Gooden said. "A lot of guys didn't have their best game."

And as well as the Bucks have played in their recent winning streak, those wins hardly came against the NBA's elite teams. Faced with a tougher challenge, the Bucks didn't quite measure up.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles had praise for Udoh, the lower-profile acquisition in the trade, but otherwise wasn't happy with his defence.

"The only really good defensive minutes we had was when Ekpe was in the game," Skiles said. "He was plugging everything up, doing what he does. Other than that, we really struggled tonight."

Before the game, Skiles said he challenged Jennings to defend Rajon Rondo, something the Bucks have struggled with in the past. The Bucks generally contained Rondo -- he had 10 points and 14 assists -- but didn't have a defensive answer for Pierce.

Rivers said before the game that he was concerned about his team keeping its energy up in the final two games of the trip. But it was the Bucks who struggled down the stretch.

Boston led 74-71 going into the fourth quarter, then jumped out to an 82-73 lead with an 8-0 run.

With Milwaukee later trailing 88-77, Jennings missed a jumper and Keyon Dooling hit a long jumper on the other end, putting the Celtics up 90-77 with 5:54 left.

Milwaukee showed some signs of life on a four-point play by Jennings -- a layup, a foul and a technical on Rivers -- but the Bucks still trailed 92-83 with 4:34 left.

Two free throws by Jennings cut the lead to 92-85, but a jumper by Garnett and a layup by Rondo put Boston ahead 96-85 with 3:26 remaining.

NOTES: Rivers said before the game that former Cleveland Cavalier Ryan Hollins is expected to join the Celtics once he passes a physical. "It's not official, but he agreed and all the papers are being drawn up and hopefully by the end of the day, he'll be a Celtic," Rivers said. ... Milwaukee's Carlos Delfino had a scary moment in the third quarter, accidentally taking a hard hit to the head when he hit the shoulder of teammate Drew Gooden. After spending a few minutes on the ground, Delfino continued to play. ... Boston's Brandon Bass appeared to tweak his ankle near the end of the second quarter but was able to continue playing. ... Skiles was called for a technical foul in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce (Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)
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