Without three starters, Bucks fall to Celtics
BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas was able to watch from the bench while the Celtics finished off the Milwaukee Bucks in the regular-season finale.
The Boston star got a little bit of rest — and the No. 1 seed he wanted, too.
“It’s very special. For me it is,” Thomas said after scoring 13 points with eight assists in a 112-94 victory over the resting Bucks on Wednesday night. “I’ve never been a No. 1 seed. I’m excited now. But once you get the playoffs, the seedings go out the window.”
Gerald Green scored 18 points, 10 of them in a 25-2 fourth-quarter run that put the game away. A few minutes earlier, Cleveland lost its finale against Toronto to guarantee Boston home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bulls victory over Brooklyn gave them the eighth seed and a first-round matchup against the Celtics. Game 1 is Sunday night.
The Bucks were already locked into the sixth seed and a first-round matchup with Toronto, allowing them to rest Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tony Snell and Matthew Dellavedova. Spencer Hawes had 15 points in 17 minutes, and Michael Beasley also scored 15 for Milwaukee.
“For three quarters, it was a ballgame. Fatigue got us a little bit,” said Bucks coach Jason Kidd, who was pleased to come out of the game without any injuries. “Now we have to turn the page and get ready for Toronto.”
The Celtics, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2012, finished the season with a three-game winning streak while Cleveland lost its last four. The defending NBA champions opted not to push for the top seed, resting LeBron James for the last two games.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he noticed the Cleveland score at halftime and decided he would try to get his starters some rest.
“And then I just said, basically, `Let me know if it gets close,'” he said. “But that wasn’t the deciding factor in any moves.”
The Bucks led by as many as 13 before Boston ran off 14 of the last 16 points in the first half. Thomas, who was scoreless until then, had 10 of them, including eight straight.
But Thomas was on the bench with eight minutes left in the fourth, with the Celtics trailing 88-87. Green and Avery Bradley had back-to-back dunks, then Kelly Olynyk made a 3-pointer. After a basket by Gary Payton II, the Celtics ran off the next 18 points.
Malcom Brogdon scored 11 points in 24 minutes in his return from a five-game absence due to back soreness. Afterward, he said he was “100 percent.”
“I think it’s going to help me during the playoffs,” he said. “I was able to get my rhythm back tonight.”
TRAINER’S ROOM II
Bradley came off the floor shaking his hand in the third quarter, but he was cleared to return.
“I’m just knocking on wood and praying I’m healthy so I can have good playoff series,” he said.
Stevens said the sight gave him a bit of a scare.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that when he came out with his hands kind of shaking that I didn’t start to think about getting some other guys out,” the coach said.
Bucks: Antetokounmpo is the first player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in a single season, according to STATS. The NBA didn’t start keeping track of blocks or steals until the 1973-74 season.
Celtics: Thomas finished third in the league in total points this season and with the highest per game scoring average in franchise history behind Larry Bird’ 29.9 in 1987-88. … The Celtics finished with the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2008, when they won their NBA-record 17th championship.