With Howard Still Sidelined, Magic Lose

The shot 60.6 percent and made their first eight attempts of the fourth quarter to hold off , 115-107, on Tuesday night in Miami.

Kevin Garnett made 11 of 14 shots and had 27 points and 9 rebounds for Boston, and Paul Pierce scored 24 points. Rajon Rondo posted double-digit assists for the 18th straight game, extending the N.B.A.’s longest such streak in 20 years with an 18-point, 15-assist effort.

Boston shot well everywhere, including 9 for 14 from 3-point range and 20 of 25 at the free-throw line.

LeBron James finished with 36 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists for Miami, and Dwyane Wade added 20 points.

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

The Heat fell three games behind the Chicago Bulls, who defeated the Knicks later Tuesday.

76ERS 107, NETS 88 Center Spencer Hawes came off the bench for the first time and a scored a season-high 19 points to lead slumping Philadelphia in Newark. The 76ers got a big game from their bench, with Lou Williams adding 20 points and Thaddeus Young 19.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak and was only the fifth in 15 games for Philadelphia (30-27), which leads the Knicks by a game for the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The loss eliminated the Nets (21-38) from playoff contention for the fifth straight season.

MAVERICKS 110, KINGS 100 Dirk Nowitzki and Rodrigue Beaubouis each scored 15 points to lead six Dallas players in double figures, and the Mavericks won their last game before hitting the road.

The Mavericks, who had lost three of their previous four games, are seventh in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Houston and a half-game ahead of Denver. Dallas plays six of its last eight games on the road, with a four-game trip in five days starting Thursday at Golden State.

WIZARDS 93, MAGIC 85 Kevin Seraphin, a second-year forward from French Guiana, took advantage of Dwight Howard’s absence from Orlando’s lineup, getting career highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead host Washington. Howard missed his second straight game because of back spasms and his fourth in six games. The Magic have lost three of four in his absence.

CAVALIERS 103, BOBCATS 90 Lester Hudson, signed from the N.B.A. Development League last month, scored 25 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, as host Cleveland handed Charlotte its 13th loss in a row. The Bobcats are a league-worst 7-49.

RECORD D-LEAGUE GRADUATES The Development League had 50 players called up to N.B.A. teams this season, 10 more than its previous high in the 2009-10 season. Twenty-five percent of N.B.A. rosters are D-League alumni.

SUMMER LEAGUE RETURNING The N.B.A. summer league will return to Las Vegas in July after it was canceled last year because of the lockout.

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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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Deng and Noah Lead Rose-Less Bulls Past Celtics

Luol Deng scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and Joakim Noah added 17 points and nine rebounds to rally the Chicago Bulls to a 93-86 win over the on Thursday night.

The Bulls again played without Derrick Rose, out due to a strained groin for the 12th consecutive game. Chicago, which has been without Rose for 22 games this season, improved to 15-7 in his absence — including 8-4 during the latest stretch.

“I think the big thing is you look at what you have. Our team has shown all year that we have great fight and we believe we can win with whoever we have out there and they have shown that all year,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Noah will be glad have Rose back, but does not want the Bulls to get complacent when Rose returns to the lineup.

“We definitely want Derrick back out there, he helps, but even when Derrick comes back it’s not going to be easy,” Noah said. “We have a long road ahead, a lot of games, a lot of battles. With Derrick back we have to play hungry. When we play hungry, we’re tough to beat.”

The Bulls rallied from 13 points down in the first half and pulled away in the fourth quarter to end their first two-game losing streak of the season. Trailing by 11 at halftime, Chicago outscored Boston 55-37 after the break — which had Celtics coach Doc Rivers steaming after the game.

“I had to use two timeouts … to remind us that we are actually having an NBA game tonight,” said Rivers. “I thought this was the worst loss for us this year the way we approached the game.”

Paul Pierce scored 22 points for Boston, who has lost two in a row after a winning a season-high five straight. Pierce had only one point in the fourth quarter.

“That was an unacceptable effort for us. I don’t say that very often. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before,” said Rivers.

Besides Deng’s offense, he was also a factor in Pierce’s struggles in the fourth quarter.

“He made a lot of big plays for us. We needed the scoring and that’s what he provided. He had a tough matchup with Pierce, he’s going to make you work,” Thibodeau said.

Rose, who last played March 12 in a win against New York, was a game-time decision. He practiced on Wednesday, taking contact for the first time since the injury, and said afterwards he was optimistic he will be able to play against the Knicks on Sunday.

“Obviously we are excited to get Derrick back as soon as possible, but we just need him back right,” said Noah.

Leading 74-73 in the fourth, Taj Gibson and Deng had back-to-back baskets, and after Avery Bradley’s steal and layup for Boston, Kyle Korver made a 3 to give Chicago a 81-75 lead with about 7 minutes remaining.

Later in the quarter, Deng had eight points during a 10-4 run that was capped by Carlos Boozer’s dunk to put the Bulls up 91-81 with 1:42 left.

The Celtics gave the Bulls a little scare in the final two minutes. Rajon Rondo had a breakaway layup and Ray Allen’s 3-pointer was changed to a 2 after a replay, pulling Boston to 91-86 with 42.3 left. Rondo missed a 3 with 10 seconds left that would’ve cut the Celtics’ deficit to three points.

“We had a good lead. They didn’t have their star (Rose) in the game. But they’ve won a lot of games without him. So you can’t take them for granted,” said Pierce.

C.J. Watson finished with 15 points and Boozer had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago.

Trailing 56-47 with 8:10 left in the third quarter, the Bulls scored eight straight points to cut Boston’s lead to one. After Brandon Bass’ putback dunk, Watson made back-to-back 3s to give Chicago a 61-58 lead with 3:42 to go in the period.

Leading 38-33, the Celtics went on a 11-3 run late in the second quarter, capped by Rondo’s runner that gave the Celtics a 13-point lead. Watson made two free throws to cut the Celtics lead to 49-38 at halftime.

Rondo had 10 points and 12 assists for Boston after an 87-86 loss to the Spurs at home on Wednesday night.

NOTES: Allen came off the bench for the fifth time in his career. He scored 14 points. Before playing on Wednesday, Allen missed six games with a sore right ankle.

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