MILWAUKEE The weather is starting to heat up and apparently, so are the Boston Celtics, who went on a blistering fourth quarter shooting spree to pull away from the Milwaukee Bucks, 100-91.
Boston (25-21) heads into Friday night's game against Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia (26-21) down by just half a game, with the winner -- similar to when the two met earlier this season -- taking their place atop the Atlantic Division.
The Celtics used a balanced attack in the fourth quarter for the win, but for most of the game it was too much Paul Pierce for the red-hot Bucks (they had won their previous six games) to handle.
He finished with a game-high 25 points along with nine rebounds.
The comfortable finish was in stark contrast to the first three quarters of play.
After a close first half, it was more of the same in the third quarter. However, a slew of missed shots by both teams brought the score down to a more manageable Celtics pace.
Boston spent a good chunk of the quarter with a slim lead courtesy of Pierce, who was at his best in the first and third quarters when he scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
However, Boston has had a season-long problem with closing out quarters and Thursday night they decided to flip the scrip.
After allowing the Bucks to regain the lead with a 5-0 spurt, back-to-back baskets by Kevin Garnett to end the quarter put the C's ahead, 74-71.
The C's led 35-29 after the first quarter as Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined for 10 points, which equaled Milwaukee's high scoring backcourt duo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.
Boston's 35 points were the most they've scored this season in the first quarter, so an offensive lull in the second quarter seemed likely.
Meanwhile, the Buck kept a steady clip offensively with another 29-point quarter and led, 58-56 at the half.