BOSTON—Rajon Rondo used the pass to set up the run.
The Celtics point guard had 13 assists and nine rebounds on Tuesday night, then scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter as Boston pulled away to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 98-89 and win their eighth straight game.
"I knew eventually they would sag back and make me try and score," Rondo said. "In the second half, I tried to be a little bit more aggressive."
Kevin Garnett scored 25 to go with nine rebounds, and Paul Pierce scored 15 points. Reserve Rasheed Wallace added 13 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter before the Celtics broke an 86-all tie by scoring 12 of the game's final 15 points.
"With everybody else on the team, you kind of lose focus on (Rondo) a little bit," said Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who scored 17. "You're so worried about Pierce scoring, Garnett scoring and (Ray) Allen scoring. But he did a good job for them, attacking the basket, making plays. And he made some big free throws."
Andrew Bogut had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Ersan Ilysova scored 19 and pulled down eight rebounds for the Bucks, who lost their fourth in a row and their eighth in nine games. Jennings, a 20-year-old first-round draft choice, had four turnovers to go with four assists and five fouls facing Rondo.
"We had tremendous difficulty keeping him in front of us the whole game," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "He took it to our rookie pretty good."
Rondo didn't score until he was sent to the line early in the fourth quarter to break a 71-all tie. After Hakim Warrick made a layup, Rondo made a jumper from the lane and Wallace hit a 3-pointer to give Boston a 78-73 lead.
Boston's lead was down to one point when Rondo drove and drew a foul and a goaltending call. And with about 5 minutes left, he was fouled on back-to-back possessions, sinking three of the four free throw attempts to give Boston an 88-86 lead with 4:42 left.
"Tonight was the first time I saw 'Hack-a-Rondo,'" Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's driving now. He's getting to the basket. I told him at halftime, 'Just keep attacking,' and that's what he's doing."
Boston scored seven straight points after Milwaukee tied it at 86 on a layup by Ilyasova with 4:51 left. After Rondo's two free throws, Kendrick Perkins made one of two. Jennings double-dribbled the ball away, Rondo hit a pull-up jumper to make it 91-86.
Rondo then grabbed his fifth steal of the game, taking the ball away from Bogut. Boston threw it out of bounds, but Bogut turned it over again and Garnett hit a skyhook in the lance to make it a seven-point game.
Ilyasova made a pair of free throws before Allen sank a 3-pointer to make it 96-88 with just under 2 minutes left.
The victory was a consolation prize of sorts for Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who lost his bid for the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by Edward M. Kennedy. Pagliuca was in a race for third place in the Democratic primary, out of four contenders, far behind winner Attorney General Martha Coakley.
The Bucks had won five in a row when Bogut posts a double-double. Bogut, who had 12 points and five rebounds in the first quarter, reached double digits in boards early in the third.
NOTES: Rondo tried to go coast-to-coast at the end of the first quarter with 3.1 seconds left, but the Bucks put a couple of defenders in his way and by the time he got off a long 3-pointer -- a swish -- the buzzer had sounded. ... Garnett passed Hal Greer (21,586) and moved into 25th on the NBA's career scoring list. ... Bucks G Michael Redd missed his sixth straight game with a sore left knee. He has played in just three of the last 15 games. ... Bucks G Luke Ridnour writhed in pain while cradling his left arm after a loose ball scrum in the third quarter. He left the game but went to the bench and was said to be able to return; he didn't.