The Boston Celtics haven’t had any prolonged slumps, so the prospect of losing a third consecutive game has to be a bit foreign to the defending Eastern Conference champions.
With the way they’ve played most of the season, the thought of a fourth straight win has to be surreal for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Celtics will try to avoid their longest slide in nearly a year Sunday as they host the Bucks, who have blown out their last three opponents to get back in the playoff race.
The Celtics came out flat Wednesday against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers and lost 108-103, then couldn’t recover Friday at Philadelphia. Boston shot 41.8 percent and got just 16 combined points from Paul Pierce(notes) and Ray Allen(notes) - 20 below their average - in an 89-86 defeat.
“We were dead tired, dead out of it, it looked like,” coach Doc Rivers said.
That 76ers certainly had that look Saturday in Milwaukee. Fresh off a 19-point win at Washington and a 20-point victory over Cleveland, the Bucks (26-38) shot 52.6 percent and cruised 102-74.
Milwaukee, which averages 91.7 points and shoots 42.7 percent - both NBA lows—has averaged 102.3 points and shot 50.4 percent while tying its longest winning streak of the season.
“Our defense has always been kind of stable. On the offensive end, we’re moving the ball better, guys are shooting their shots with more confidence,” said Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes), who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five steals. “We need to play that way for the rest of the season if we want to make the playoffs.”
Beating the Celtics could put the Bucks in playoff position. Tenth in the East heading into the day, Milwaukee is just one half-game behind Indiana and Charlotte - both of which play on the road Sunday.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt the Bucks can pull out a win at the TD Garden, though. Boston hasn’t lost three straight since March 28-April 2, 2010, and it’s responded to its four two-game skids this season with winning streaks of 14, four, four and three.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, has gone into a tailspin after its previous three-game winning streaks. The Bucks have followed with slides of five, three and four games.
They’ll at least be healthier than they were a week ago against Boston. Bogut missed that game with a muscle strain in his ribcage, while Corey Maggette(notes) should be available after sitting out two games with a knee injury.
Maggette was active Saturday, but coach Scott Skiles didn’t play him.
Bogut’s presence could be key. He’s averaged 22.8 points and 13.3 rebounds in his last four games against the Celtics.
Bogut will likely see an additional big body he’ll have to deal with underneath the basket, however. Boston expects to have Glen Davis(notes) back after its burly forward has missed the last four games with patellar tendinitis.
The Celtics could use him, considering they fell into a tie for the East’s top spot Saturday after Chicago won its sixth straight game.
Rivers, though, is prone to playing it cautious with his aging team’s injured players. Delonte West(notes), Shaquille O’Neal(notes) and Jermaine O’Neal(notes) are all being cautious in their recoveries.
“We want the one seed, but we want health, too,” Rivers said.