“We were able to withstand their run, guys were making good shots and we moved the ball,” Walker said. “That was a good sign. When we have a high number of assists (26), we do well. We know that is how we win games.”
Paul Pierce added 15 points and Walter McCarty also had 14 for the Celtics, who have endured an inconsistent season but have won three straight for the first time since a four-game run from November 20-27.
The Celtics needed almost every bit of their fourth-quarter cushion, which reached 81-65 on a three-point play by Pierce with 11:32 left.
“We gave them confidence to build a hole for us and we fought hard through the second half to try to overcome,” Milwaukee coach George Karl said. “But we gave up offensive rebounds and missed free throws in the last two minutes of the game.”
Milwaukee rallied with an 11-0 run, capped by a dunk by Ervin Johnson, who scored 12 points.
The Bucks cut the deficit to 94-92 with 49 seconds left after Tim Thomas made 1-of-2 two free throws. Pierce, who struggled with his shot all night, answered with a jumper with 35.9 seconds to go, giving Boston some breathing room.
“I felt good, even though I missed 10 or 15 shots in a row,” said Pierce, who shot just 6-of-22 from the field. “If the shot is there, I’m going to take it anytime. It gave us a little cushion and we closed the game out.”
J.R. Bremer later sank 1-of-2 free throws to make it a five-point game.
Toni Kukoc hit a 3-pointer for Milwaukee and McCarty missed a pair of free throws with two seconds left.
But Sam Cassell was unable to get off a shot before time expired as the Bucks had an eight-game home winning streak stopped.
Thomas scored 22 points and Cassell 20 for Milwaukee, which had not lost to the Celtics at the Bradley Center since a 106-99 setback on January 3, 1998.
“It was a good game, a game you pay money to see,” Thomas said. “We were down, got back into it, but we didn’t get it done.”
Ray Allen made three 3-pointers in the game’s first 1:45 for the Bucks, but he got just four points thereafter.
“When they got off to that hot start, I thought it would be the kiss of death,” Boston coach Jim O’Brien said. “But we did a great job of shutting Ray Allen down after he got nine quick points. We did what was necessary to get a `W.’”
Walker had 19 points in the first half to help Boston build a 58-48 lead at intermission.