Pavlovic Rallies Celtics to 78-66 Win Over Heat

Rest and recovery were of much greater importance as both teams looked ahead to the postseason and patched together lineups that hardly resembled last year’s second-round playoff series.

The result was sloppy at times, but turned into a relatively even matchup before the seldom-used Celtics rallied for a 78-66 win over the starless Heat on Tuesday night.

Sasha Pavlovic led Boston with a season-high 16 points, scoring 12 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away by shooting 50 percent (11 for 22) in the period and forcing Miami into eight of its season-high 25 turnovers.

“Well, someone had to win the game and we did, which was really nice,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “You know, these games are still important, probably for both teams.”

But not important enough to risk anybody’s playoff status.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were out for the Heat. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo didn’t play for the Celtics.

Rivers said Rondo and Garnett should be back in the lineup on Thursday when Boston hosts Milwaukee in the final game of the regular season. By rallying for a win Tuesday, the Celtics — locked into the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference as a division winner — can still get home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs against Atlanta with another victory on Thursday and a loss by Hawks. Atlanta heads into the season finale with a one-game lead but Boston won the season series.

The Celtics would prefer to open the playoffs on the road with a healthy lineup than be back at home with Rondo (back), Garnett (hip flexor) or Allen (bone spurs) still hobbled by injuries.

“We’ll see,” Rivers said. “It would be nice to put some more pressure and force Atlanta to have to win.”

Anyone who bought a ticket to this game months ago, anticipating an Eastern Conference showdown was disappointed. Instead, it was the Heat JV taking on the Celtics Lite.

Bosh didn’t dress again because of a left hamstring strain. James and Wade were still in warmups and didn’t come to the bench until after the starting lineups were announced and although they were listed as active, they never entered the game.

Instead of trying to catch Chicago for the top seed in the East, the Heat are now locked in at No. 2.

“We wanted to make sure going into the last week with a quick turnaround that we were ready for this weekend,” Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said. “We had legitimate injuries. We weren’t just sitting guys.”

Dexter Pittman had 12 points, James Jones scored 11 and Udonis Haslem grabbed 13 rebounds for the Heat, whose 25 turnovers were a season high. Miami failed to score 20 in any quarter and had just 16 in each of the final two periods.

“We made too many turnovers and they capitalized on them,” Jones said. “We did some good things, but just not enough so we are locked into the second seed and we are focused on trying to correct some of our mistakes as we move into the playoffs.”

Marquis Daniels finished with 13 points, Brandon Bass had eight points and eight rebounds for the Celtics. Paul Pierce finished with eight points. He started the game, but sat out the fourth quarter while Pavlovic thrilled the remaining fans as the Celtics improved to 3-1 against the Heat this season.

“I started kid of slow in the first half. Doc was on me about that,” said Pavlovic, who 0 for 2 while going scoreless in the first half. “I just cam out in the second half and played as hard as I could defensively. Whenever I had an open shot, I just took it.”

Pavlovic was 5 for 6 in the fourth quarter, hitting two 3s while scoring 12.

The Celtics had almost as many turnovers (7) as points (10) in the first quarter and failed to score until a little past the midpoint of the opening period. But after the sloppy start, Boston’s patchwork lineup came together in the third quarter, tying it with a 10-0 run late and then outscoring the Heat 10-4 to start the fourth.

“It wasn’t a pretty game — obviously, with 25 turnovers,” Spoelstra said. “However we got to that point, we were still tied halfway through the fourth quarter. It just went from there.”

Sean Williams hit two free throws to put Boston up 58-54, then Pavlovic pulled up with a baseline jumper for a 60-54 lead with 6:35 remaining and Miami called a time out.

Pavlovic continued to pick apart the Heat, driving for a dunk that put the Celtics up 62-56, then hitting a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to nine with 4:45 left.

Pavlovic’s previous high for the season was 10, two fewer than he scored in the final quarter.

Pierce hit a jumper, fed Bass with a pass under the basket for a dunk and then Pavlovic hit a jumper to get the Celtics started on a 10-0 run that tied it at 46-all late in the third quarter. It was tied at 50 entering the fourth. Daniels stole the ball from Juwan Howard and took it uncontested for a dunk that put the Celtics up 54-52, Boston’s first lead since 18-17 in the second quarter.

The Celtics are at home Thursday against Milwaukee while the Heat close out the regular season at Washington

Haslem and Mario Chalmers were the only regular Miami starters while Pierce and Bass were Boston normal starters in the opening lineup.

NOTES: The Celtics didn’t score until Pierce’s turnaround jumper with 5:45 left in the first quarter, cutting Miami’s lead to 11-2. … The Celtics matched their season-low for a quarter with just 10 points in the first period. … The Heat knocked the Celtics out in the second round of the playoffs last year, winning the series 4-1. … One of the loudest cheers of the night was when the big-screen monitor showed highlights of the Boston Bruins’ win over Washington in Game 6 on Sunday. The Bruins host the Capitals on Wednesday night in Game 7.

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Celtics Slow Down the Pacers and Steady Themselves

Paul Pierce scored 24 points and the Celtics beat the , 86-72, on Saturday night.

The Celtics lead their division by two games over the Philadelphia 76ers, who lost by 88-82 to the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

“They’re playing at a very, very high level,” Indiana Coach Frank Vogel said of the Celtics. “They have a championship coach and a championship core. They know how to get it done.”

Danny Granger scored 20 points for the Pacers, who had won four in a row and had scored more than 100 points in five consecutive games. But against the Celtics, they matched their lowest point total of the season. Indiana shot 35 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers.

“This is just a bump in the road for us, and we must put it behind us and get ready for the next game,” Granger said. “We had several shots that could have dropped, but they didn’t.”

The Celtics and the Pacers split their four-game season series.

The Pacers were coming off a home win against Oklahoma City on Friday night, but they looked tired against the Celtics.

Boston took a 22-19 lead, then held the Pacers scoreless for the next 7 minutes 23 seconds to take a 36-19 lead.

“I thought defensively, we were sensational tonight,” Boston Coach Doc Rivers said.

MAGIC 88, 76ERS 82 Dwight Howard had 20 points and 22 rebounds, and Glen Davis had 23 points and 12 rebounds to help visiting Orlando end a five-game losing streak and take the focus off its well-publicized rift. Coach Stan Van Gundy disclosed last week that Howard wanted him fired, but 76ers Coach Doug Collins said that was nothing new.

“It’s been a season of drama throughout the league,” he said.

His own team might be due for some. Philadelphia has lost 9 of 13 and is in danger of missing a playoff spot after leading the Atlantic Division for much of the season. The 76ers are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but only a game ahead of the eighth-place Knicks, and a game and half ahead of ninth-place Milwaukee.

BUCKS 116, TRAIL BLAZERS 94 Beno Udrih scored a season-high 21 points and Brandon Jennings also had 21 for host Milwaukee. The Bucks have won four in a row and are .500 (28-28) for the first time since they were 2-2.

HORNETS 99, TIMBERWOLVES 90 Jason Smith had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds for host New Orleans. Minnesota has lost 5 in a row and 13 of 17.

GRIZZLIES 94, MAVERICKS 89 Rudy Gay scored 25 points and host Memphis moved two games ahead of Dallas for fifth place in the Western Conference.

HAWKS 116, BOBCATS 96 Eight players for Atlanta scored in double digits at Charlotte. The Hawks broke open the game in the third quarter with a season-high 38 points.

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Rondo’s Triple-Double Carries Celtics Over Bulls

Kevin Garnett added 13 points and 12 rebounds, reserve JaJuan Johnson had 12 points and Ray Allen 11 for the Celtics, who snapped a two-game skid. Rondo had season highs in both points and assists.

The win came after what Boston coach Doc Rivers called an “awful” performance in an 86-74 loss at Toronto on Friday. Rivers was very frustrated after the game and spoke about how it was “un-Celtic.”

C.J. Watson, who started in Rose’s spot, scored 22 points for the Bulls, whose win streak ended at five in the finale of a 6-3 road trip. Carlos Boozer also scored 22 and pulled down seven rebounds, while Joakim Noah had 16 points and nine boards.

Rose, the reigning league MVP, missed his second straight game with what coach Tom Thibodeau called “stiffness” in his back. Rose is expected to see a specialist Monday after the team returns to Chicago. He originally suffered the injury earlier in the week and was limited in Wednesday’s win at New Orleans before missing Friday’s victory over Charlotte.

The Bulls trailed by 14 with just over 5 minutes to play, but they turned up the pressure defensively and made a late run, pulling to 91-88 on Luol Deng’s two free throws with 1:23 to go.

After a turnover by Paul Pierce, Watson was short on a 3-point attempt and Rondo grabbed the rebound with 21.5 seconds to go. He was fouled and hit both free throws.

Watson missed the second of two free throws and Rondo grabbed his 10th rebound with 9.8 seconds on the clock.

Without having to worry about covering Rose, Rondo seemed to roam free on offense for most of the game, driving the lane for easy baskets, taking open jumpers and setting up teammates. He had 28 points, nine assists and six rebounds entering the final quarter.

The Bulls had closed the score to 72-68 early in the final quarter before Allen and Pierce nailed 3s during a 10-3 run that helped Boston take charge. Rondo had assists on both 3-pointers, driving the lane to collapse the defense before kicking the ball outside.

Rondo had fast-break alley-oop lobs for dunks on consecutive possessions to Johnson and Chris Wilcox that made it 86-72 midway through the fourth.

The Celtics had opened a 59-50 third-quarter edge on Rondo’s free throw before the Bulls scored eight of the next 10 points, closing the gap to three. But Boston improved its advantage to 72-66 after three on Rondo’s two free throws with 3.3 seconds left.

Boston held Chicago to 34 percent shooting in the first half and led 48-43 at intermission. The Bulls stayed close behind 11 offensive rebounds.

Part of the reason for Boston’s quick start may have been the poor showing in Toronto. It was just the third time in club history that the Celtics scored below 75 points and the first in 11 years.

NOTES: Boston was without F Brandon Bass and F/C Jermaine O’Neal. Rivers said Bass’ knee “swelled up” after Friday’s game and that “he’ll be out probably 10 days to two weeks.” Rivers said O’Neal had knee and shoulder injuries. … During his pregame press briefing, Rivers said his former assistant Thibodeau is somewhat like Patriots coach Bill Belichick because “he works so hard and he expects everybody to work as hard as him, which is impossible.” Rivers recalled a story about how Thibodeau had two teams chasing him before helping persuade him to take the Chicago job. “He actually had two jobs and I grabbed him by the shoulder and said, ‘Are you kidding me? You have a chance to coach Derrick Rose and you’re thinking about another job?’ Are you nuts? I actually said, ‘If it’s a penny to go there or $10 million to go to the other place, take the penny. In the long run you’ll be able to coach.'”

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