MILWAUKEE - And on the 13th day, the Celtics rested.
The Celtics blew a 15-point lead before defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime last night at the Bradley Center, 102-97, their eighth game in 12 days.
Celtics forward Paul Pierce scored a game-high 28 points, guard Ray Allen scored 27, and they combined to nail six free throws in the final 24.9 seconds to seal the win.
"Listen, to play eight games in 12 days and then hang in there and win this game and go 7-1 in this eight-game stretch, you'll take it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "If someone would have told me before [the season] that we'd go 7-1 during this stretch, I'd say I'd take it."
Boston (9-2) will be without a game for two straight days for the first time since Nov. 2-3. The Celtics have won four straight road games and five straight against Milwaukee (5-6). The Celtics also were playing on back-to-back nights after losing to Denver in Boston a night earlier.
"It was pretty grueling. I'm not going to lie," said Allen, a 13- year veteran. "That was one of the tougher stretches I've faced in my career."
A 3-pointer by Brian Scalabrine, his first of the season, gave Boston a 15-point lead (69-54) with 1:06 left in the third. The Celtics finished the third quarter with a 71-59 lead, but the Bucks closed to within 82-81 with 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics seemed perturbed with the physical play of Bucks center Andrew Bogut (20 points, 9 rebounds). With Boston up 86-81 with 3:58 left in the game, Kevin Garnett (15 points) was hit in the mouth by Bogut after earning a hard shooting foul and tempers flared. After huddling for a lengthy amount of time, the referees gave Garnett and Bogut technicals; as it was Bogut's second, he was ejected.
"Teams are talking to us. We're the target," Rivers said. "We just have to stand up and take it. We don't have to respond. Right now, I think we respond a little bit too much. Just take it."
In Bogut's place, a cold Dan Gadzuric made two free throws.
Soon, a Luke Ridnour 3-pointer followed by a 3-point play by rookie forward Luc Mbah a Moute gave Milwaukee an 89-88 lead with 2:58 to go.
"They outworked us during that one stretch," Rivers said. "I thought we were a little tentative. We got some good looks, but we were rushing everything. Give them credit."
Pierce followed with a jumper and a 3-pointer to give Boston the lead back, 93-89, with 2:10 remaining in regulation. But a lay-in by Ridnour tied the game at 93 with 1.4 seconds remaining.
"I had two shots I thought could've iced it," Allen said. "They had us defensively on our heels."
Both teams went scoreless in OT until Mbah a Moute nailed two free throws to give Milwaukee a 95-93 lead with 2:32 left. Twenty one seconds later, Boston regained the lead on a Pierce 3-pointer. Garnett, however, fouled out with 15 points and five rebounds at the 1:48 mark.
Gadzuric's baseline dunk gave the Bucks a 97-96 lead with 1:07 left. During the play, Pierce and Rajon Rondo slammed into each other hard. Pierce was elbowed in the head by Rondo, but both seemed OK after taking a while to get up.
"I'm fine. I think [Pierce] got the worst of it," Rondo said.
Allen made two free throws with 24.9 seconds left to give Boston the lead back at 98-97. After a missed jumper by Richard Jefferson, Allen nailed two more free throws to give Boston a 100-97 advantage.
The Celtics had no problems from the line on this night. Behind Pierce (14 for 15) and Allen (9 for 9), the Celtics went 32 for 36, and needed every one of them.
"We did a pretty good job coming back in the second half and taking it to overtime," said Mbah a Moute (14 points, 9 rebounds). "We have lapses where we don't play as well and against teams like this they just take full advantage of it."
Instead of going for a tying trey, the Bucks went for a short jumper - by Gadzuric - and Pierce got the rebound. Pierce sealed the win with two free throws with 3.6 seconds left.
"Overtime was good," Rivers said. "After the first two minutes of just bad basketball on both sides, overtime was really good. We got some stops. We were just searching for buckets really."
"The free-throw line saved us in overtime," said Allen, a former Bucks star.
Although a rest today is much needed for the Celtics, Rivers and his coaching staff resisted the urge to give his team tomorrow off, too.
"We need a break," Rivers said. "There is no doubt about it. We get one day because we need to practice, too. It's funny. We actually contemplated giving them both, but we need to practice.
"We are going to give them [today] off. We get in about 4 a.m. Let them sleep the rest of the day . . . and we'll have a great practice Monday and get ready for the next swing of games."