MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks played defense Sunday the way their coach preaches it.
"I felt it was one of our better defensive games," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "It's not too often when you shoot a little over 30 percent for the game and still win the game."
The Bucks shot 32.6 percent, scored 27 points off the Celtics' season-high 25 turnovers and grabbed 14 of their 21 offensive rebounds in the second half. Richard Jefferson scored 17 points and Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought we played hard from beginning to end on the defensive end," Skiles said. "We were locked in and really moving our feet on the defensive end of the floor."
The Bucks hounded Boston's two leading scorers into dismal performances. Paul Pierce, averaging 20 points, had 15 on 4-for-15 shooting. Ray Allen, averaging 18.6, scored eight while going 2-for-11. Even Rajon Rondo felt the Bucks' pressure as he finished with five on 2-for-10 from the floor, off his average of 11.5.
Kendrick Perkins scored a career-high 26 points with 12 rebounds, including a career-best nine offensive. But he couldn't carry the team as Milwaukee denied the defending champions a chance to clinch their second straight Atlantic Division crown.
"With 25 turnovers, we gave up 21 offensive rebounds, we held them to 32 percent shooting and we lost the game," Perkins said. "We just can't win like that."
Boston coach Doc Rivers agreed with Perkins' assessment.
"When you give a team 21 offensive rebounds and you turn the ball over 25 times, the fact that we had a chance to win this game is a miracle in some ways," he said. "I thought Milwaukee played harder."
Boston trails Cleveland by 3½ games for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The play of the game came down the stretch as the Bucks clung to a four-point lead.
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.
"That shot was kind of like a prayer," Bell said. "Rondo made a great defensive effort to get a steal, but we finally got a ball to bounce in our direction. All throughout the season, we've lost a lot of games with the ball bouncing the other way and the other team getting a break. We finally got a break tonight."
Ridnour, who had 11 points and five assists, 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 three minutes left.
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, capitalizing on the Celtics' 10 turnovers. Boston led just once at 61-60 on 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. He 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, 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.
- After the game, House sat with his left ankle heavily bandaged. He said he rolled his ankle late in the game.
- Rivers said that Garnett, who has missed 11 games, wants back so bad that "if there was a treadmill Olympics, he'd be leading the pack right now." Rivers added that the chances for Garnett and Davis to play Friday at San Antonio were above 50 percent.
- Boston slipped to 6-5 in the last 11 games without Garnett (sprained right knee).
- Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and ends Ruvell Martin and James Jones followed the action from sideline seats.
- The 25 turnovers tied for the most by a Bucks opponent this season. The Celtics hadn't had that many since last April when they lost it 26 times against the Bucks in April.