BOSTON – With the Cleveland Cavaliers resting core players against a Toronto team that played its usual starters, the Boston Celtics were in good shape, win or lose to Milwaukee, to wind up with the top seed in the East.
But just for good measure, Boston used a blistering fourth quarter run to put the game away and secure the top seed in the East for the first time since the 2008 title team with a 112-94 win over Milwaukee.
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The Celtics will open the first round of the playoffs this weekend against ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo and the Chicago Bulls who absolutely annihilated the Brooklyn Nets, 112-73 to clinch the eighth and final playoff seed.
Boston’s late game burst was impressive on many levels, with the most notable being Isaiah Thomas – one of the best fourth quarter scorers this season – on the bench for the entire fourth quarter watching as his teammates step up and eventually, stomp out the Bucks who came in having already secured the sixth seed in the playoffs.
Boston trailed 88-87 in the fourth, and went on to close the game with a 25-6 run fueled by the team’s second unit.
Leading the late-game surge for Boston was Gerald Green who led all scorers with 18 points.
It was an unexpected blowout win for Boston, even with the Bucks resting several of their key players such as All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And for most of the game, the ending was indeed a stark contrast to what we saw through the first three-plus quarters of play.
Boston trailed most of the first half, but closed out the second with a 14-2 run that put them ahead 57-56 at the half.
Milwaukee led most of the third quarter, getting solid play at both ends of the floor and for the most part didn’t allow Boston to get into any kind of flow or rhythm.
The two teams went back and forth through the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, with neither team putting together enough stops or shots made to feel in control.
Trailing 88-87, the Celtics went ahead on a Gerald Green dunk.
Moments later, Kelly Olynyk connected with a cutting Avery Bradley for a dunk that put the Celtics ahead by one point.
After a slew of back and forth misses by both teams, Olynyk struck again. Only this time it was him draining a 3-pointer that put Boston ahead 94-88 which led to Jason Kidd calling a time-out.
Boston continued to pull away in a game that was meaningful on so many levels.
It was Fan Appreciation Night, and the Celtics players gave Celtics Nation plenty to be excited about. And more important, the victory secured the top seed in the East which means Boston will have home court advantage in the East for as long as they stay alive in the postseason.