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Celtics-Bucks Preview

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In his first two games with the Milwaukee Bucks, Monta Ellis has contributed to one of the team's longest win streaks in a decade.

While the recently acquired guard has yet to produce the kind of scoring performance he's been known for, he might have a chance Thursday night based on some of his previous games against the Boston Celtics.

Making his highly anticipated home debut, Ellis will try to lead the Bucks to a seventh straight win and end their four-game skid against the Celtics.

Milwaukee (21-24) got Ellis - one of the league's top scorers - from Golden State in a five-player deal March 13, and he had 18 points in his debut Friday, a 120-98 road victory over his former club.

Ellis was one of six players in double figures during that win and during a 116-87 rout in Portland on Tuesday. Ellis had 14 points and nine assists while Drew Gooden led the way with 19 points.

"Everybody's out there having fun, sharing the ball and everybody's on the same page trying to get some wins," said Ellis, who averages 21.4 points. "That's all that matters to us."

The Bucks are one victory shy of their longest streak since an eight-game run from Jan. 8-21, 2002, and Ellis will try to help by continuing his recent success against the Celtics (24-21). The guard, who has averaged 27.4 points in his last five games versus Boston, had 41 points in his previous matchup last March in Boston and 37 in a home win over the Celtics on Dec. 28, 2009.

This time, he'll face a Celtics team that has split its past eight games and 3-3 on a season-high, eight-game road trip. Boston avoided a third straight defeat on its lengthy trek by holding off Atlanta 79-76 on Monday to strengthen its hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics, who are three games ahead of the Bucks, nearly blew a 15-point lead in the final 2:57 before Ray Allen hit a pair of late free throws. Boston shot 39.2 percent in its first game since learning Jermaine O'Neal will miss the rest of the season following wrist surgery.

"I'm trying to get our team to understand we don't have a margin for error," coach Doc Rivers said.

Rivers' team, though, managed to beat Milwaukee 102-96 on Feb. 29 without O'Neal. Kevin Garnett had a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in that win, and Rajon Rondo recorded one of his career-high four triple-doubles this season.

Ersan Ilyasova led Milwaukee with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but Gooden (23 points) was the only other player with more than 10 points. Gooden has averaged 19.1 points since that game and was named the Eastern Conference's player of the week Monday.

Gooden will try to help the Bucks avoid a third straight home loss to Boston and earn only their fourth win in the last 16 games in the series. Milwaukee is also seeking a third straight win at the Bradley Center and fifth win in six games there.

To earn that victory, the Bucks might need to limit Paul Pierce, who has averaged 23.5 points on 60.0 percent shooting (18 of 30) during his last two games in Milwaukee.

Tagged: Celtics, Bucks, Drew Gooden, Monta Ellis

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