MILWAUKEE -- Paul Pierce wishes the Celtics could play like they did against the Bucks every night. Rookie Brandon Jennings already wants another shot at the bullies from Boston with more on the line.
Pierce scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half and the Celtics beat Milwaukee 105-90 on Saturday night without Kevin Garnett, pushing the Bucks around in the process.
"It was a big win. I wish we could come out like this every night," Pierce said. "We have to get some momentum going as we head into the playoffs."
After a rough-and-tumble game in Milwaukee last month, this one featured more pushing and shoving late and could be a sign of things to come in a first-round matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"When the playoffs start, it's going to get crazy," said Jennings, who scored 19 points. "It's going to be fun and I can't wait, just from the two games we've played them it's going to be a fist fight."
It almost seemed as if one was about to break out, but the two teams aren't guaranteed to meet yet. Boston will either be the third or fourth seed and Milwaukee will be either the fifth or sixth.
The Bucks have the most sway in the situation, playing Atlanta on Monday and at Boston on Wednesday.
Down the stretch in this one, Milwaukee missed Andrew Bogut -- sidelined for the season by hand, wrist and elbow injuries -- and again failed to win four straight without the 7-foot Australian since drafting him No. 1 overall in 2005.
"It is a big loss," Pierce said. "He was having an all-star type season. He was a big part of what they did to turn their season around. No one expected them to be in the playoffs."
Now, the Celtics, who won for just the third time in the last eight, might have to deal with the Bucks first in the postseason.
"Boston is like big bullies from school," Jennings said. "A lot of teams don't like that."
If the Celtics want to make a title run, they'll need everyone to step and showed the Bucks they're ready to tangle in the process as Garnett rested to prepare.
"A couple technicals here, a couple of technicals there," Pierce said. "Maybe we are setting up something for a week and a half."
The two teams have certainly irritated each other in the previous two matchups, and Milwaukee (45-35) lost its composure down the stretch.
"They've got a little bit of kind of brash overtone to their team, obviously they've won a championship, so they've got a right to feel that way," said Bucks forward Jerry Stackhouse, who had 12 points. "We're going to step up and match them every way we can. If that's who we wind up playing in the playoffs, it should make for an entertaining series."
Pierce hit three straight baskets for Boston to give the Celtics an 88-81 lead with 3:32 to play before things turned sour.
First, Thomas grabbed two offensive rebounds, but felt he was fouled by Davis when he tried to drive to the basket and was hit on the head, complaining to the referees on the way back down.
He got his revenge quickly, throwing Davis to the floor on the other end with 2:35 left and drawing a flagrant foul. Davis received a technical when he jumped up and bumped Thomas immediately, reminiscent of the teams' March 9 meeting in Milwaukee when Davis squared off with the much smaller Jennings.
The Bucks won that one 86-84 after Bogut scored 25 points.
Without Bogut, no one was able to fill the void.
"At this stage, things are getting a little more intense right now. You're going to have some moments like that," Stackhouse said. "If you're going to get a technical, hopefully it's a double so nobody's shooting any free throws."
On the next possession, Pierce and Stackhouse got tangled up. Stackhouse drew a foul while holding Pierce on the court.
The call enraged Skiles, who pointed at the officiating crew and said something that drew a double technical and an ejection as Boston sealed the win by hitting all 12 free throws after Thomas' flagrant foul.
"I explained my side of it, although I don't really have a 'side,' there was no 'side," Skiles said. "It happens. My guys were going at it pretty hard right there and I wanted to come to their defense."
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