The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
Pierce finds an offensive rhythm
In explaining why Kevin Garnett was the only member of Boston's Big Three to get a night off in Milwaukee, Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicated it was imperative that Paul Pierce find his rhythm over the final three games given his up-and-down play in an injury-riddled season.
Pierce missed five of the first eight shots he took Saturday, but made his first seven attempts of the second half in helping Boston motor away from the Bucks.
Pierce found a soft spot in the Milwaukee defense and torched them with his 18-foot jumper.
"In the third quarter, we decided to spread the court a bit and I was able to find space," said Pierce. "Once I figured out in the first half that each time I drove, the defense would collapse on me. I started to stop short for my little pull-up jumper and I was able to knock it down.
"It's one of those things you read. I missed four or five shots at the rim [in the first half] because I was going up against two or three defenders. I had to find some open space."
Pierce scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half with his biggest contribution coming over a 90-second span late in the fourth quarter. Pierce made three straight jumpers, including the final with 3:31 to play that kept Boston out front, 88-81, as Milwaukee tried desperately to make a charge.
When Pierce wasn't finding his rhythm with his in-between game, he was bouncing off defenders and muscling in baskets in the paint.
"[Pierce] was doing what he does," said Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles. "He takes a couple dribbles, uses his body a little bit, rises up and shoots. We didn't have a whole lot of answers for that."
Rivers liked what he saw from his captain.
"That was big for us," said Rivers. "He hasn't done that [lately], really. That's why we're still playing him. We talked about it before the game, trying to get Paul some rhythm. If he can get his rhythm, that makes us really good."
Now Rivers must decide whether it's best to keep Pierce on the court for the final two games, or give his hodgepodge of injuries (knee infection, midfoot sprain, thumb sprain) a chance to rest. Pierce didn't hesitate to voice his preference.
"I really don't want [a break]," said Pierce. "I'm more of a gamer. I want to be playing. [Teammates] do what's best for them and best for their bodies. I feel pretty good health-wise and I’d like to be out there."
C's come up big with small lineup
The Bucks made a somewhat curious decision to go small Saturday night considering Boston was playing without Garnett and Kendrick Perkins found himself in early foul trouble. Rivers noted it wasn't a bad strategy, but it actually played into Boston's hand.
"It's funny, we talked about it [Saturday] morning, how we wanted to work on the small lineup," said Rivers. "When they went small we were like, 'Well, now is better than ever.' It was good for us."
With Perkins neutralized by early foul trouble (and a woeful offensive start -- 0 for 4, 0 points over 18 minutes), the Celtics leaned heavy on spot-starter Rasheed Wallace and reserve bigs Glen Davis and Shelden Williams. Wallace and Davis posted nearly identical lines, each registering 12 points and 7 rebounds. The second half often featured an undersized but athletic pairing of Davis and Williams.
Davis clearly left his mark on the game, logging a contest-best plus-18 in the plus/minus category over 27 minutes.
Rivers expects to see more of Milwaukee's small lineup if the teams meet in the postseason, so he felt it was good to generate some positive results against it.
"They do play small a lot and we don't," said Rivers. "So that's something we have to adjust to and get used to."
Allen stays hot, wants to play final games
Following Saturday's win, Celtics guard Ray Allen reiterated his pregame comments that he'd be open to the idea of rest if Rivers and Co. approached him about it, but even then it's not going to be an easy sell. The idea of getting some of his teammates extended play does intrigue Allen, however.
"If I look at it from the team standpoint, I'd love to see teammates out there playing," said Allen. "I'd like to see Marquis [Daniels]. I'd like to see Nate [Robinson] get some minutes... At the same time, I'd like to be out there. My body feels great. I like to just play basketball. I don't subscribe to the policy of resting because you're worried about getting hurt or whatever it is.
"I'm sure in the next day or so we'll talk about it and [Rivers] will decide what's best for the team."
Allen connected on 5-of-7 attempts, all inside the arc, while splashing all 11 of his free throws, for 21 points over 34 minutes. He added two rebounds, two steals, and an assist in the win.