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 Shoot Past Heat, 115-107

Paul Pierce scored 27 points, Kevin Garnett added 24 points and nine rebounds, and the Celtics made their first eight shots of the fourth quarter to hold off the Heat 115-107 on Tuesday night.

Rajon Rondo posted double-digit assists for the 18th straight game, extending the NBA’s longest such streak in 20 years with an 18-point, 15-assist effort. Brandon Bass added 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Avery Bradley scored 11 for the Celtics, who shot a season-high 61 percent and survived two possessions where Miami could have tied the score in the final quarter.

“We talk about it in fighting terms,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We told them today before the game, you’re in a boxing match, you expect to get hit. They’re going to hit you. They did and we withstood it. I thought that was important for our team.”

LeBron James finished with 36 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which got 20 from Dwyane Wade and 18 from Mario Chalmers. Chris Bosh finished with 13 on 5-for-13 shooting for Miami, which has gone 5-5 in its last 10 games.

The Celtics beat Miami 91-72 in Boston on April 1, a game the Heat called “unacceptable” after establishing season-lows in scoring and shooting.

This one won’t sit much better with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, who ousted the Celtics in five games from last year’s playoffs and could see them in the second round of the upcoming postseason. No team had shot better than 55 percent against the Heat this season, and Boston’s 115 points were two shy of matching a season-high against Miami.

“We left Boston feeling awful at our performance,” James said. “I don’t feel as bad tonight. Those guys, they were locked in. Not only did they make their open shots, they made their contested shots. … When you’ve got it going like that, just tip your hat off. We tip our hat off to them tonight. They won it.”

Boston improved to 18-7 since the All-Star break, and dealt Miami a blow in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East. The Heat fell three games behind Chicago after the Bulls beat the New York Knicks later Tuesday night.

“It took a while,” Rondo said, “but we’re peaking at the right time.”

A layup by Wade got Miami within 108-103 with 2:22 left, before Garnett made a high-arcing jumper that dropped softly through the net, his 11th make in 14 shots.

That pretty much described the night. Whenever Miami got close, the Celtics found a way to hold them off.

“It’s a game of runs,” Pierce said. “You have one of the best teams in the NBA at home. You know they’re going to make a run. That’s what makes them who they are. They know how to turn it on. We did a good job of holding their runs to a minimum.”

Miami had two shots to tie early in the fourth after being down by as many as 18 earlier, before Garnett made jump shots on four straight possessions, the average length of those makes being 19 feet.

A 10-0 run early in the first quarter gave Boston a quick lead — and that wasn’t even the Celtics’ best run of the opening period. Boston scored the last 11 of the first, the run actually becoming 13-0 when Garnett scored to open the second quarter, and Boston’s lead was 35-22.

Everything the Celtics wanted, they got. Boston shot 61 percent in the first quarter, 62 percent in the second. Rivers used eight players, all of them making multiple shots by halftime. Of them, the only one who failed to make at least half his shots was Bass, who more than made up for that with six first-half rebounds.

Here’s how well the Celtics were shooting: Miami went into the break shooting 51 percent from the field, 60 percent from 3-point range and 78 percent from the foul line — and Boston was at least 10 percentage points better in every department.

“None of us were expecting that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “To give up 115 points on our home floor, that’s not our style. And we’re being made to feel uncomfortable right now. That’s really the residual of the last three weeks or so. This is probably the one silver lining out of it, is our group, staff and players, we’re getting to know each other now on the level that is needed for us to prepare for the playoffs.

“We all know we have to take a real big step forward as a basketball team,” Spoelstra added.

The next chance for that “big step” comes Thursday, when the Heat visit Chicago.

Down by 18 in the first half, Miami cut the deficit to 65-57 at halftime. James closed it with a 3, punching the air as the shot dropped.

Even with that, every moment of the second half was an uphill battle.

And the Celtics weren’t being caught.

Miami got within five twice in the third, with Rondo answering both times to make it a three-possession game again. The Celtics held the Heat to 36 percent shooting in the quarter, keeping the eight-point lead entering the fourth at 89-81.

The Heat had two chances to tie early in the fourth, after starting the period on a 7-0 run. The first of those slipped away when Bosh failed to finish off a three-point play opportunity by missing from the line. The next came when Udonis Haslem missed from the left baseline with 9:17 left, and Boston’s answer that time was absolute.

Allen made a catch-and-shoot 3 for a 94-89 lead, and then Garnett just took over.

“When they shoot like that, it’s going to be tough to beat them,” Wade said. “Obviously, we can always do things better. But give them credit.”

NOTES: Alex Terrio, a fan wearing a Heat T-shirt, won a 2012 Kia Optima for making a halfcourt shot in between the third and fourth quarters. “Shock,” Terrio said. … James had 11 points in the third quarter for the third consecutive game. … Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Jim Kelly were at the game, as was Chicago Bears star Julius Peppers.

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Celtics Top 76ers to Increase Atlantic Division Lead

The host Celtics improved their Atlantic Division lead to three games over the 76ers and the Knicks.

The 76ers have lost 10 of 14, falling into a tight battle for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots. They are tied with the Knicks for seventh place, a game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks.

NETS 122, CAVALIERS 117 Gerald Green scored a season-best 32 points, including a 3-pointer with 36.7 seconds left in regulation and a high-flying dunk in overtime as the Nets won at home for the third straight game.

Anthony Morrow had 24 points for the Nets, who put up their highest score of the season. Deron Williams added 18 points and 10 assists, and Kris Humphries had 16 points and 11 rebounds. The Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, was in attendance for the first time this season.

HEAT 98, PISTONS 75 LeBron James scored 26 points and Chris Bosh had 22, as Miami, playing without Dwyane Wade for the 11th time this season, beat visiting Detroit. Wade sat out with soreness in his right ankle. are 10-1 when he is out.

SPURS 114, JAZZ 104 Tony Parker scored 28 points, and host San Antonio maintained its slim lead atop the Western Conference.

Manu Ginobili added 23 points for the Spurs, who are on their second 11-game win streak — a season best in the N.B.A. But the Spurs are fighting off Oklahoma City, which is percentage points behind in the race for first.

THUNDER 91, RAPTORS 75 Kevin Durant scored 23 points and Oklahoma City had a 24-0 second-half run en route to victory over visiting Toronto.

ROCKETS 104, KINGS 87 Courtney Lee scored 25 points as Houston beat host Sacramento.

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