This season has gone so well for the NBA-leading Boston Celtics that they clinched the Atlantic Division title even after sustaining their worst loss of 2007-08.
The Celtics (51-13) lost 110-92 to Utah on Friday, but still secured their second division crown in four years when Toronto - which is 17 1/2 games behind in second place - fell 137-105 at Denver hours later. Boston, which has 18 games remaining, holds the season tiebreaker on the Raptors.
Despite clinching the title, the Celtics saw their season-high 10-game winning streak come to an end when the Jazz went on a 17-3 run to end the game.
“It was one of those games, man,” said Celtics star Paul Pierce, who had eight points and five turnovers. “You kind of feel like a little kid out there in the park and the bully came and snatched the ball and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Boston might have to play without Allen, who exited Friday’s game when he slipped and fell at the end of the first quarter, bruising his left heel. The guard - second in the team with 18.4 points per game - is expected to travel with the team, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, “he’s going to have to be extremely healthy for me to play him.”
Allen didn’t play in Boston’s last meeting with Milwaukee (23-42) on Dec. 14 due to a sore right ankle, but the Celtics got 32 points from Pierce to win 104-82 at home.
The Celtics and Bucks have split their last four games at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks - losers of four straight - are four games back of Atlanta and New Jersey for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This is their fifth four-game losing streak of the season, but they have not dropped five in a row since a seven-game skid from March 21-April 3 last season. That skid ended with a 98-89 home win over Boston.
On Wednesday, Milwaukee opened a four-game homestand by blowing an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead to lose 114-110 to the Jazz.
“This is difficult to keep losing games like that,” said Bucks reserve Charlie Bell, who made a season-high five 3-pointers to finish with 24 points Wednesday - his 29th birthday. “It’s just frustrating right now.”
Milwaukee has been hit with injuries to three key players - guard Mo Williams (abdominal strain) and forwards Yi Jianlian (sprained left ankle) and Desmond Mason (bruised right knee). They have missed a combined 11 games.
Without the injured trio, Michael Redd has scored 26 points in each of the last two games.
Redd, though, was limited to seven points in the last meeting with the Celtics after averaging 24.6 points in his previous five games against them.