Milwaukee 98, Boston 89

MILWAUKEE, April 4 (AP) -- Larry Krystkowiak and Doc Rivers know what skeptics are thinking.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, they say, aren't playing the last few weeks of the season with a wink and a nudge, trying to lose just to get a better shot at a draft pick.

"We're not trying to come up with a master plan that ends up biting us in the rear,'' Krystkowiak said.

In a game that had major NBA draft lottery ramifications - and at a few points might have served as an effective stay-in-school message to college basketball stars Kevin Durant and Greg Oden - the Bucks' skeleton crew beat what was left of the Celtics 98-89 Wednesday night.

Earl Boykins scored 32 points and the Bucks snapped a seven-game losing streak, but the game was more significant because of the big names that didn't appear on the score sheet and what it might mean to the draft order.

Boston's Paul Pierce and Milwaukee's Michael Redd both sat out because of injuries, leaving each team without its leading scorer. The injury issues didn't stop there, with the teams dressing only nine players each and Celtics guard Delonte West leaving because of a sprained left ankle midway through the third quarter.

"Right now, we don't have much,'' Bucks guard Charlie Bell said.

Krystkowiak knows outsiders will imagine the team has some sort of "master scheme,'' but said he wouldn't jeopardize the lessons he's trying to teach his players by sitting them out when they aren't really injured.

Rivers doesn't buy the conspiracy theories either.

"I thought that both teams played hard,'' Rivers said. "I don't think either team played well, for the most part.''

Short-handed, the Bucks turned to the NBA's shortest player - the 5-foot-5 Boykins.

"It puts you in a difficult spot, but you know that you're going to get minutes,'' Boykins said.

Boykins shot 13-for-19 from the field, coming within four points of his career high of 36, set Jan. 24 at Sacramento.

"He's a crafty little dude, he really is,'' Rivers said.

Bell added 25 points for Milwaukee. Rajon Rondo led Boston with 16.

The game got ugly at times, as the Celtics couldn't guard the league's shortest player and the Bucks struggled to defend Kevinn Pinkney, a fresh callup from the NBA Development League who just signed a 10-contract with Boston.

Pinkney scored 15 in his NBA debut, including a confidence-building early dunk.

"It got the jitters out of me,'' Pinkney said. "After that, I was ready to go.''

At one point in the fourth quarter, Bucks forward Ruben Patterson threw a sharp fast-break pass - to official Rodney Mott.

The Memphis Grizzlies have the NBA's worst record at 19-57, and Boston (23-51) and Milwaukee (26-48) are the league's next-worst teams. Teams' chances at the top pick in the draft are weighted according to their finish.

The Bucks were without Redd and guard Mo Williams, both of whom missed the game with left knee pain. Milwaukee forward Brian Skinner also sat out Wednesday's game with vertigo-like symptoms because of an inner ear infection.

Milwaukee already was playing without center Andrew Bogut and forward Charlie Villanueva, who both were ruled out for the season with injuries March 21.

Krystkowiak said he feels like he's living in a bad dream.

"It's gotten a little bit comical with some of the injuries,'' Krystkowiak said. "There's no use crying about it. You might as well get a chuckle out of it.''

The Celtics were without Pierce, who now has missed the team's last three games with a sore left elbow. Al Jefferson (left knee bruise) and Brian Scalabrine (strained left hamstring) also missed Wednesday's game. Boston already was missing forward Wally Szczerbiak, who has a left ankle sprain.

Rivers looked on the bright side: At least another team was dealing with an injury situation as bad as theirs.

"You do start taking notice of the rest of the league, because you want somebody else to join you,'' Rivers said. "You know, misery loves company.''

Notes: West scored 10 before leaving the floor with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter. He did not return. Rivers said he expects West to play against Miami on Friday ... Ruben Patterson had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Milwaukee. ... Ray scored 15 for Boston.


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