BOSTON - The rebuilding Boston Celtics moved into first place in the woeful Atlantic Division with a 108-100 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
Beating the Bucks for the first time in three tries this season, the Celtics, who are supposed to be chasing lottery picks, improved to 8-12. The .400 winning percentage is ahead of the 6-10 Toronto Raptors, who were to play Golden State in a later game.
The Celtics, who trailed only 2-0 and 4-2 and led by as many as 15 before holding off charge after charge, have won four of their last six games.
The Bucks, who ended an 11-game losing streak by beating Boston Saturday night in Milwaukee, have lost 12 of their last 13 to fall to 3-14.
The Celtics went 11-for-24 from 3-point range, led by guard Jordan Crawford's 4-for-7 and guard Avery Bradley's 3-for-6. Crawford led six Celtics in double figures with a season-high 25 points and five assists. Forward Jeff Green had 18 points, Forward Brandon Bass 16 points and nine rebounds forward Jared Sullinger 12 points, including a key late jumper, and had eight boards.
Guards O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight, who killed the Celtics Saturday night, led the Bucks, who lost despite going 8-for-18 from 3-point range, with 19 and 15 points, respectively.
On Saturday night, the Celtics went 4-for-19 from 3-point range. On Tuesday night, Boston was 4-for-4 from behind the arc in the first 4:40 of the game. The Celtics hit seven of their first eight shots and led by 12 later in the first quarter.
But the Bucks, who overcame double-digit leads in the other games with Boston, including a 20-point deficit the first time out, had it down to five by the end of the quarter.
Every time the Bucks made a move, the Celtics had an answer. They led by seven at halftime and by nine 18 seconds into the second half, but Milwaukee would not go away. The lead was two points when Green nailed a pair of 3-pointers to make it 67-59.
The Boston lead was six entering the fourth quarter.
NOTES: G Courtney Lee, who missed two games with a sore left knee, returned for Boston, but rookie F/C Kelly Olynyk remains out with an ankle sprain. Olynyk was one of three nominees for the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for December but the honor went to Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams. ... F Ersan Ilyasova (thumb, hamstring) retuned for the Bucks, who were still missing F Larry Sanders (thumb) and F Caron Butler (shoulder). ... Milwaukee started a run of four games in five nights, returning home for the Detroit Pistons Wednesday, then visiting the Washington Wizards Friday and finally hosting the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night. The Celtics host the Denver Nuggets Friday night. ... Celtics F Gerald Wallace brought his teammates off the bench with a flying slam down the lane in the second quarter. ... F/C John Henson made his second straight start for the Bucks.