BOSTON — Ray Allen watched from the bench as his Boston Celtics lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. Then he faced the television in the locker room showing the Miami Heat on their way to a victory.

That win determined the Celtics first-round playoff opponent — the Heat, not the Bucks.

It made no difference to him.

“It has nothing to do with those two teams,” Allen said Wednesday night after the Bucks’ 106-95 victory, the Celtics seventh loss in 10 games. “It’s all about us.”

And that includes the Big Three. On Wednesday, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen sat out to avoid possible injury because the Celtics already had clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“This is the healthiest we’ve been,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I think this is the best (Garnett’s) been since early in the season. I think (Pierce) is feeling fantastic right now.”

The game began as a possible first-round preview if Milwaukee won and Miami lost to New Jersey. But the Heat beat the Nets 94-86 in double-overtime. That meant the Celtics would face the fifth-seeded Heat and the sixth-seeded Bucks would meet the third-seeded Atlanta Hawks.

The Bucks had cleared out of the dressing room by the time the matchups were set. But they were pleased with a season in which they finished 46-36, a 12-game improvement over last season. That was the biggest in the Eastern Conference as the Bucks snapped a two-game losing streak and are in the playoffs for the first time in four years.

“We didn’t want to go into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak,” said Jerry Stackhouse, who tied Luke Ridnour with a team-high 17 points. “Winning your last game gives you a little bit of confidence.”

Even if it came against a team that didn’t use four starters — their big three plus center Kendrick Perkins. He has 15 technical fouls and another might have brought a one-game suspension in the playoffs. Rivers said a call to the NBA didn’t provide an answer as to whether a suspension would be served then or at the beginning of next season.

The game lacked defense and excitement.

Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 15 assists for the Celtics.

“Everybody says they have three stars — KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce,” Jennings said, “but he’s the key.”

The other three, though, will be well rested.

“I feel good about my team,” Rondo said. “We had guys rest tonight, the older guys. So I’m excited. It’s a different atmosphere playoff time, a different feeling, different vibe, everything.”

For the Celtics, Marquis Daniels scored 13 points, and Shelden Williams and Nate Robinson added 12 each.

“This is my first playoff experience so I want to go all the way and help this team do that,” said Robinson, acquired from the New York Knicks on Feb. 18.

The Celtics finished at 50-32, their worst record in three seasons.

They won the NBA title in 2008 but were eliminated in the Eastern semifinals in 2009.


DOC RIVERS said he’ll consider whether to return as Celtics coach after the season, just as he does every year.

Rivers said his family will be a key factor. Next season, one of his sons will be a senior basketball player at Indiana University and his daughter will be a senior volleyball player at the University of Florida. Another basketball-playing son will enter his final high school season.

Rivers is in his sixth season as the Celtics’ coach and has one more left on his contract.


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