BOSTON For the second time in as many nights, the Boston Celtics found a way to win a game that certainly did little for them other than pad their win total.
The Celtics nearly squandered a double-digit lead late in the fourth before Kevin Garnett came up with big plays at both ends of the floor -- and some timely free throws -- which allowed the C's to escape with a 102-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Keeping with Celtics tradition -- at least this year - -the Green Team made things way more interesting than they needed to be.
Boston had a double-digit lead most of the fourth, so Celtics coach Doc Rivers emptied the bench with a few minutes remaining. Before you knew it, the Bucks had the C's lead down to 98-93 with 1:19 to play.
Milwaukee inched even closer following a lay-up by Ersan Ilyasova that made it a 98-96 game with about 21 seconds to play.
But Garnett made a key defensive play to alter a Brandon Jennings' lay-up attempt, in addition to making four free throws in the final minute of play.
With the victory, Boston, now sitting at 17-17, won its second straight after dropping five in a row.
Boston got off to a fast start, but soon went through its usual second quarter slump.
In the third, the Celtics went on a blistering 25-6 run that put the Celtics ahead, 77-64, late in the quarter.
As was the case in Tuesday's win at Cleveland, Garnett continued to play with the kind of fire and passion that no one on either roster possesses.
He scored. He rebounded. He blocked shots and deflected passes.
Garnett was once again a steady anchor to a Celtics team that at times, was in desperate need of some direction. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds in addition to three assists.
Of course, Garnett wasn't the only Boston player to contribute in a big way.
Rajon Rondo shook off a rough night in Cleveland, with a 15-point, 10-assist, 11 rebound night for his third triple-double of the season.
As for the Bucks, they were led by Ilyasova's 25 points and 10 rebounds. Drew Gooden (23 points and eight rebounds) had a nice game for the Bucks as well. While Jennings only had six points - more than 12 below his season average -- he was instrumental in the Bucks (14-21) making a late-game surge.
For the second time in as many nights, the best player on the floor for Boston was Kevin Garnett. The 6-foot-11 forward had a team-high 25 points and 10 rebounds for his team-leading ninth double-double this season. In addition to his scoring, Garnett's defense -- especially in the fourth quarter when the game was close -- proved once again that Kevin Garnett in many ways, is still Kevin Garnett.
"I don't need much motivation," Garnett said. "Y'all don't know me. Y'all don't get to see me everyday in my preparation and what I have to do to play."
"He's just a phenomenal guy to coach," said Doc Rivers. "I can tell you that every day."
Although Brandon Jennings hit a couple of big 3s in the fourth to make the game a lot closer than it should have been, the Celtics did a nice job of limiting the Bucks' leading scorer all night. Jennings, an 18.2 points per game scorer, finished with just six points on 2-for-11 shooting. Jennings, who took six of his 11 shots in the fourth, said he didn't want to throw off the shooting rhythm of his teammates.
"They had it going, everybody was making shots, moving the ball just really well so I kind of didn't what to mess that up and just kept penetrating in the paint and try to find guys that were open," said Jennings, who had a team-high 11 assists.
Chris Wilcox is healthy, and the Celtics are a much better team because of that. The 6-10 forwardcenter turned in yet another strong game on the boards. In addition to his seveen points and two steals, Wilcox also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds which helped the C's to a plus-three advantage on the boards.
"He's provided us with just what we needed off the bench," said Paul Pierce. "He's given us some energy."
After a lay-up by Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova cut Boston's lead to 98-96 with 24.2 seconds to play, the Bucks tried to get a steal. When that didn't work, they fouled Kevin Garnett with 14.4 seconds to play. Garnett, who had a similar situation on Tuesday at Cleveland, once again came through with a pair of well-timed and much-needed free throws. They put the Celtics ahead 100-96 which made it a two-possession game with very little time remaining.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: That would be the number of triple-doubles Rajon Rondo has this year for the Boston Celtics.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"They're starting to understand this is a grind second-half (of the season)." - Celtics coach Doc Rivers.