Bucks-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

With the playoffs about to start, the Boston Celtics still expect to take a business-like approach to their final regular season game.

The Celtics should have some of their ailing stars back in the lineup as they try for a sixth consecutive victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.

With Ray Allen (ankle), Kevin Garnett (hip) and Rajon Rondo (back) all watching, Boston (38-27) posted an ugly 78-66 win Tuesday over a Miami club minus stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Sasha Pavlovic scored a season-high 16 points as the Celtics overcame a 28-point first half and forced 25 turnovers to prevail.

"Well, someone had to win the game and we did, which was really nice,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "You know, these games are still important."

Having already secured the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference by winning the Atlantic Division, Boston can earn home-court advantage in the first round against Atlanta if it beats Milwaukee and the Hawks lose to Dallas on Thursday. The fifth-seeded Hawks have a one-game lead over Boston, but the Celtics own the tiebreaker between the teams.

"It would be nice to put some more pressure and force Atlanta to have to win," Rivers said.

Though Rivers will play to win Thursday, he will not sacrifice the health of his players for an extra first-round home game. Despite a 15-18 road record, Rivers has confidence in his team away from TD Garden.

"I'm taking rest and rhythm over home court," Rivers told the Celtics' official website.

Paul Pierce, who logged just 18 minutes in the victory over the Heat, isn't arguing with his coach's logic.

"We're definitely a better home team than we are a road team, but at this point we feel like if we're healthy we have a chance in anybody's building."

Rivers said that Rondo and Garnett are expected to be in the lineup Thursday.

Rondo recorded double-digit assists in 23 straight games before missing the last three contests. He had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 102-96 home win over Milwaukee on Feb. 29.

Garnett, who missed three of the last five games, has totaled 41 points and 20 rebounds in two against the Bucks this season.

Milwaukee (31-34), which will fall short of the playoffs for the second straight season, looks to avoid a fourth consecutive road defeat to the Celtics.

The Bucks hope to bounce back from a 90-85 home loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday. Brandon Jennings had 19 points and rookie Tobias Harris added 15 with 13 rebounds as the Bucks fell despite holding the 76ers to 35.6 percent shooting.

Injuries have plagued the Bucks again this season. They dressed nine players Wednesday and could again be without key players Monta Ellis (hand), Carlos Delfino (groin) and Ersan Ilyasova (knee) in the finale.

Jennings, who played with a sore eye suffered in Monday's 92-86 win over Toronto, is averaging a career-high 19.2 points in his third season and 25.2 in the last five games.

"I just wanted to play because I just love the game,'' Jennings said. "It doesn't matter to me. I get up to play basketball. It's my job. I have to still be a professional and finish the season.''

He's been held to 9.0 points per game on 35.0 percent shooting in Milwaukee's last four trips to Boston.

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