The Celtics will try to avoid extending their franchise-record losing streak to 19 games when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Ten teams in NBA history have lost at least 19 games in a row in a single season and Boston (19-32) is closing in on Cleveland’s league record of 24 straight losses that spanned the end of the 1981-82 and start of the 1982-83 seasons.
The Celtics almost ended their slide in Sunday’s 109-107 road loss to Minnesota. Boston led by 10 points in the first half and by two with just over one minute to play in the game, but it turned the ball over three times in the final 90 seconds and the Timberwolves’ Ricky Davis - a former Celtic - hit a jumper with 0.2 remaining for the win.
“It is tough, the guys played so hard and deserve to win,” said Pierce, who scored 29 points in his second game back after missing 24 with a stress reaction in his left foot and an elbow infection. “We did everything we could. Down the stretch they made the last play.
“You can feel it in the locker room, each loss definitely hurts. These guys are going to keep playing hard. We just need to get it out of our head.”
Pierce shot 9-for-16 from the floor in 31 minutes - much better than two nights earlier when he scored nine points on 4-for-16 shooting off the bench in a loss to New Jersey in his first game since Dec. 20.
“It is amazing how much better we are when you add that guy,” said Boston coach Doc Rivers of Pierce, who scored 34 against Milwaukee in a 111-98 win on Nov. 25.
Boston could have a good shot of snapping the streak Wednesday against Milwaukee (19-33), which has lost 19 of its last 23 games and won’t have its own star, Michael Redd, back until after the All-Star Break.
Redd, who averages 27.7 points, has missed 19 straight games with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee. Milwaukee is 3-16 without him, but he could return Tuesday against Detroit.
The Bucks blew an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost 99-93 at home to Dallas on Tuesday. Milwaukee was outscored 28-11 in the final period as it committed six turnovers and failed to make a field goal in the final 7:05.
“It’s frustrating,” Milwaukee’s Charlie Bell said. “It’s coming down to who wants it more at the end. Dallas really showed they wanted it more.”
Andrew Bogut had 16 points and 17 rebounds Tuesday for his second consecutive double-digit rebound game.
Milwaukee could be without forward Charlie Villanueva, who had 15 points but sprained his right ankle late in the first half. He returned briefly before leaving for good. Villanueva, who averages 12.3 points, has missed 21 games this season due to injuries and is listed as day-to-day.
Milwaukee has won its last two games in Boston, but is 8-22 on the road this season and has lost eight straight.