The only time all season Boston has been above the break-even mark came in mid-November when it was 3-2. By winning their last three games, though, the Celtics have gotten back to .500 and have matched their longest win streak of the season.
“This team is starting to come together,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re starting to develop some chemistry, some togetherness, and we’re playing well right now.”
Winning in Milwaukee would be another good sign for Pierce’s team.
The Celtics have won only once in their last 10 games there, including losses in both trips last season. They had lost three straight overall to the Bucks before winning 101-100 at home on Dec. 1.
Gary Payton believes Boston’s recent success is due to improved consistency.
“I think we’ve been lackadaisical a lot of times,” said Payton, who had 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting in a 103-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. “A lot of guys have not been playing as hard as they should. And I think now we’re playing together.”
Payton didn’t arrive in Minneapolis until 2 a.m.—10 hours before tipoff— after spending Saturday in California with his mother, who had surgery.
Pierce scored 32 points, including 15 in the third quarter, to lead the Celtics. He’s averaging 26 points in the last eight games, six of which were victories.
Raef LaFrentz tied a season high with 15 rebounds for Boston on Sunday. LaFrentz has picked up his play of late, averaging 14.2 points and 8.8 boards in his last five games.
The Bucks were coming off home wins over the Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers heading into Saturday’s game at Washington, but were blown out 112-94.
“We had won two games against quality opponents, so it shouldn’t be anything about confidence at this stage of the game,” Milwaukee coach Terry Porter said.
The Bucks had outrebounded their opponents in 10 of their previous 11 games, but lost the battle of the boards 40-35 to the Wizards.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 6): Celtics - 1st place, Atlantic Division. Bucks - 5th place, 10 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Celtics - Pierce, 22.3 ppg; LaFrentz, 7.6 rpg; Payton, 6.3 apg. Bucks - Redd, 22.2 ppg; Gadzuric, 7.9 rpg; Williams, 5.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Celtics, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 1; Celtics, 101-100. At Boston, Pierce led the Celtics with 23 points and hit a key 3-pointer down the stretch.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Celtics - 8-16 on the road; Bucks - 12-10 at home.