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Charlie Villanueva scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Boston Celtics 86-77 on Sunday.
Kendrick Perkins scored a career-high 26 points with 12 rebounds, but had little help from anybody else as Milwaukee denied the defending champions a chance to clinch their second straight Atlantic Division crown. Paul Pierce had 15 points.
Boston came in 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
With Milwaukee ahead 81-77, Eddie House missed for the Celtics. Luke Ridnour dribbled the clock down on the ensuing possession and lost the ball, but it rolled to Charlie Bell, who threw in a desperation 3-pointer with 48 seconds left to seal the victory.
Ridnour added two free throws for Milwaukee's final points.
The Celtics trailed 80-69 late in the fourth before Perkins pulled them back into the game. He converted a three-point play, and after Pierce made a free throw, Perkins sank two and added a dunk to make it 80-77 with 3 minutes left.
Francisco Elson blocked Pierce's layup with 1:54 left and Bell was fouled on the ensuing possession, making one of two to push the lead to 81-77.
A sloppy first-half struggle ended tied at 41, but the third belonged to Milwaukee.
Villanueva's basket put the Bucks ahead 43-41 and Milwaukee maintained a slim lead through most of the third. Boston led just once at 61-60 on Rajon Rondo's fast-break layup, but Ridnour answered with a jump shot for the Bucks, who then stayed ahead the rest of the way.
Already without All-Star forward Kevin Garnett and reserves Glen Davis, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine, Boston had to play most of the second half without Leon Powe after he fouled out with 5:04 left in the third. Richard Jefferson, who had 17 points, sank both free throws, putting the Bucks ahead 56-50.
Powe scored just five points and grabbed six rebounds, far off his career-high 30 points and 11 rebounds in Friday night's 102-92 win over Memphis.
After the Bucks took a 54-49 lead midway through the third, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called a timeout and chewed out his players, but it didn't work.
Milwaukee had lost five of six and nine of 12 as it fights for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
A scary moment for the already injury-plagued Celtics came late in the second quarter.
Pierce had the ball at the top of the key setting up a play. Ridnour swiped at the ball, catching Pierce on the right side of his face. The Bucks scored after the steal while Pierce stayed on the Celtics' end covering his right eye. He dabbed at the eye with a towel, blinked several times and remained in the game.
This program aired on March 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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