BOSTON (AP) — Jordan Crawford says the young Boston Celtics have a few things to learn about finishing out close games.
Crawford took over the role of teacher Tuesday night, scoring 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to help the Celtics hold off the Milwaukee Bucks 108-100.
“We’ve just got to learn to stay focused and pull out these wins — grind them out,” said Crawford, who was 5 for 5 from the field in the fourth, including three 3-pointers.
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Jeff Green added 18 points and Brandon Bass added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who were coming off a 92-85 loss to the Bucks on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Of Milwaukee’s three wins this season, two have come against Boston and the Celtics avoided having the total reach three by holding off the Bucks down the stretch.
“We moved the ball side to side and inside-out way better than we did Saturday,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Maybe that’s a little bit of karma for why the shots went in.”
Avery Bradley scored 15 and Jared Sullinger finished with 12 points as all five starters scored in double figures for Boston, which had lost two of three.
The Bucks had just snapped an 11-game losing streak by beating the Celtics on Saturday in Milwaukee, but couldn’t quite rally from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
“I think we’re getting a little better. They still made a run and made it close,” Crawford said.
O.J. Mayo scored 19, and Brandon Knight had 15 points and six assists for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton added 14 points for the Bucks, who were outrebounded by the Celtics 40-33.
The win put the Celtics at least in a temporary tie for first place with Toronto, which played later Tuesday at Golden State. But in the Atlantic Division, which currently doesn’t have a team with a winning record, the standings aren’t all that impressive.
“We’re 8-12. It’s not like we’re lighting the world on fire,” Stevens said.
The Celtics led by as many as 15 points and had a 13-point lead in the final period cut to three twice before holding on for the win.
“I felt we were right there. They just made the tough shots,” Milwaukee coach Larry Drew said. “They made the plays down the stretch and we did not.”
Giannis Antetokounm pulled Milwaukee within 69-65 with an alley-oop dunk to open the fourth quarter. Crawford answered for Boston with a 3-pointer, starting the Celtics on a 15-6 run that nearly put a comeback out of reach for Milwaukee. Lee followed his 3-pointer with a jumper to put the Celtics up 81-71, then Crawford hit a 3-pointer to put Boston up 84-71 with 7:51 left.
The Bucks got back in it with a 13-4 run, pulling within 90-87 on a pair of free throws by John Henson, then made another charge late in the period for a close finish. Knight’s 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining cut Boston’s lead to 99-96, but Sullinger answered at the other end, beating the shot clock with a jumper that put Boston back up 101-96.
Stevens said he put Sullinger in a bad position with the play, but the young forward beat a double-team and got the shot when the Celtics needed it.
“It’s a good player making a good play and bailing out a bad coach,” Stevens said.
Knight missed everything on another 3-point attempt for Milwaukee and the Celtics held on to win it.
NOTES: Two of the Bucks’ three wins this season have come against the Celtics. … Caron Butler (knee) missed his third straight game for the Bucks. … Boston rookie Kelly Olynyk (sprained right ankle) did not dress. … The Celtics committed just one turnover in the first quarter. … Milwaukee was playing the first of back-to-back nights. The Bucks host Detroit on Wednesday. … Kris Humphries and Sullinger pulled down eight rebounds apiece.