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Boston Celtics defeat Milwaukee Bucks, earn No. 1 seed in East over Cleveland Cavaliers

By
Gethin Coolbaugh, The Sports Xchange

BOSTON -- Brad Stevens knows the Boston Celtics don't play for playoff berths, Atlantic Division championships or even the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

They play to win championships.

Still, the Celtics coach appreciates those accomplishments.

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"I think there's a pride in being consistent," Stevens said after his team emerged with the No. 1 seed in the East after a 112-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

"It's a real positive. We'll talk about what was accomplished later. We'll focus on whenever we play this weekend to get ready."

Gerald Green scored 18 points, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson each had 16 points, and Isaiah Thomas finished with 13 points and eight assists for Boston, which meets eighth-seeded Chicago in the first round of the playoffs.

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Game 1 is Sunday in Boston.

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The Celtics (53-29) entered Wednesday night needing a win or Cleveland loss to lock up the top seed. The Cavaliers, who rested stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, were blown out by the Toronto Raptors and finished with the No. 2 seed.

Spencer Hawes and Michael Beasley each had 15 points for Milwaukee (42-40), which also rested most of its starters after securing the sixth seed in the East following the Atlanta Hawks' victory Tuesday.

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"We came out healthy, we got guys minutes that needed to get minutes and now we've got to get ready for the (postseason)," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.

Rashad Vaughn had 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 11 for the Bucks, who will face the third-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round of the East playoffs.

"They're an excellent team, but so are we," Brogdon said. "We're playing high-level basketball too. They're a tough matchup, but if we match their energy and we execute the way we can then we have a shot."

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It marks the first time the Celtics have finished first in the East since the 2007-08 season, when they won their league-best 17th championship, and the 15th time in franchise history.

"It's very special to me. I've never been a number one seed," said Thomas, who was picked last in the 2011 NBA Draft but finished third in the NBA in scoring with 28.9 points per game behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Boston will see a familiar face in round one: Bulls guard Rajon Rondo, the former captain of the Celtics who spent eight-plus seasons with the team and was part of the 2007-08 title team.

"It's weird playing against him on the other side, but playoff time is when he really brings it," said Rondo's former teammate, Avery Bradley. "It should be a fun series."

The Celtics led 57-56 at halftime but couldn't stretch their lead beyond four in the third, taking an 80-78 advantage into the fourth.

Beasley's fadeaway jumper with 8:12 remaining gave Milwaukee an 88-87 lead. Green's dunk nine seconds later handed Boston the lead for good, and they finished the game on a 23-6 run.

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It was the short-handed Bucks who played like a team with the top seed up for grabs early on, taking a 36-25 lead after the first quarter on Mirza Teletovic's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Milwaukee led by as many as 12 points and shot 60.9 percent in the period.

Hawes' finger roll gave the Bucks their biggest lead at 52-39 with 3:54 left in the second quarter, but Boston came alive and closed the half on an 18-4 run.

Thomas was held scoreless until he hit a pair of free throws with 2:17 left in the half. He knocked down back-to-back 3s and added two more free throws to put Boston up one at the break.

NOTES: Milwaukee F Giannis Antetokounmpo (rest), F Khris Middleton (rest), G Matthew Dellavedova (rest) and G/F Tony Snell (rest) did not travel for Wednesday's regular-season finale. F Michael Beasley, F Mirza Teletovic, G Malcolm Brogdon and G Rashad Vaughn started in their place. "An opportunity presented itself to give those guys some rest," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. ... Antetokounmpo, 22, 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. ... Celtics G Isaiah Thomas addressed the crowd before tip-off on Fan Appreciation Night. "We want to thank you guys for the amazing support you've given us this season," Thomas said. "We've got a big playoff run (coming) for you guys." Thomas later extended his club record by making a 3-pointer in his 57th consecutive game.

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