Celtics Beat Bobcats 94-82 Without 3 Star Players

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were given the night off to rest and did not make the trip to Charlotte, N.C. to face the NBA-worst Bobcats. But the Celtics won anyway as Aaron Bradley and Brandon Bass each scored 22 points.

Greg Stiemsma started in place of Garnett and had six blocks, tying a career-high.

The loss was the Bobcats’ 16th straight, tying a dubious franchise record set earlier this season. Gerald Henderson had 22 points in a losing effort for the Bobcats (7-52). If the Bobcats lose their final seven games this season they will finish with the worst single-season winning percentage in NBA history.

Despite being down to 11 healthy players, the Celtics shot 62 percent from the field in the first quarter and jumped out to a 34-23 lead.

Rondo had 12 points and seven assists during that span.

The Bobcats were able to pull within four in the fourth quarter, but Bradley hit a big 3-pointer from the corner. Bass followed that with a jumper from the foul line and Mickael Pietrus knocked down another 3-pointer from the wing to get the lead back to double digits.

The Bobcats, who couldn’t seem to find a rhythm on offense, never really challenged again.

With the Celtics already having clinched a playoff spot, coach Doc Rivers decided to leave Garnett and Pierce at the team hotel in the New York area after Saturday night’s game against the New Jersey Nets to rest. The Celtics have a game Tuesday night at New York.

Ray Allen, who is nursing a sore right ankle, wasn’t expected to play and remains in Boston. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Rivers said the Celtics had planned to rest Garnett for this game prior to the start of three straight games, but he kept Pierce behind after he jammed his left big toe against the Nets. Rivers said if this were a playoff game Pierce would play but this is strictly a precautionary measure.

The Bobcats shot just 41 percent from the field and were outrebounded 44-37.

NOTES: North Carolina coach Roy Williams and North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried took in the game courtside Sunday night. … Jamario Moon played his first game for the Bobcats after spending most of the season with the Developmental League. He did not score in 13 minutes of action.

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Heat Hang On to Top Celtics After Nearly Losing 20-Point Lead

Dwyane Wade finished with 24 points and 8 assists for Miami, which got 18 points from Chris Bosh and twice saw its lead cut to 3 in the final minutes. Cole delivered the answer both times with a pair of jump shots, and the Heat escaped.

Ray Allen scored 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting for the Celtics, while Rajon Rondo finished with 22 points and 12 assists and Keyon Dooling scored 18 off the Boston bench.

Through two games, Miami (2-0) has trailed only once — by 2 points, for all of 14 seconds. The loss was Boston’s second straight, after falling in the season opener to the Knicks, 106-104, on Sunday.

Cole’s jumper with 3 minutes 1 second left gave Miami a 108-98 lead, most of which disappeared in the next 59 seconds, thanks to Dooling — a former Heat guard. He scored 7 straight points, including a 3-pointer with 2:02 remaining, cutting the Heat’s lead to 3. And when Boston got a stop on the next Miami trip, the Celtics looked for Dooling again.

But Wade stepped in front of a pass intended for Dooling, starting a play where James found Cole for another jumper, and Miami’s cushion was back to 110-105 with 1:31 to play.

And with a minute left, it was Cole again, with the biggest shot of the night for Miami. James set him up from the top of the key for another jumper, restoring the 5-point edge. When Cole stepped to the foul line to close the scoring, he got “M-V-P” chants from the Miami crowd, something typically reserved for the likes of Wade, James and Bosh.

Boston was again without forward Paul Pierce (bruised right heel), who worked out Monday and Tuesday and is getting closer to a return. BUCKS 98, TIMBERWOLVES 95 The rookie Jon Leuer converted a 3-point play with 1:17 left, helping Milwaukee hold off Minnesota and give the Bucks a victory in their home opener.

Brandon Jennings scored 24 points and Stephen Jackson added 16 for the Bucks, who were playing without forward Drew Gooden because of a suspension and several other key players because of injuries. Gooden was suspended for Tuesday’s game for his flagrant foul in the season opener, when he was ejected in the third quarter Monday for slamming the Houston Rockets’ Gerald Henderson on the head with his arm as he attempted a driving layup.

Kevin Love had 31 points and 20 rebounds for the Timberwolves, whose late rally came up just short.

Minnesota was without Coach Rick Adelman, who was attending funeral services for his mother-in-law. Assistant Terry Porter, a former head coach in Milwaukee, filled in for Adelman.

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