Spurs Hold on, Beat Celtics 87-86 for 9th in a Row

Duncan also stopped Paul Pierce on the final play, forcing him into a step-back jumper that bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

Danny Green scored 14 points and Gary Neal had 13, including a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left that gave the Spurs the lead after Boston went on a 13-4 run to move in front.

Rajon Rondo had 17 points and 11 assists for Boston. The Celtics had won five in a row.

Pierce had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he couldn’t maneuver into open space after Boston inbounded the ball with 7.9 seconds left. Duncan stayed on him, forcing Pierce to step back near the top of the key for a floater that clanged harmlessly off the rim.

Avery Bradley scored 19 points off the bench for Boston, and Kevin Garnett had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ray Allen returned after missing six games with a sore right ankle and added seven rebounds and five points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that brought Boston within a point.

Green missed for San Antonio and Garnett got the rebound, but the Celtics couldn’t convert.

San Antonio, which averaged 107 points in the first eight games of its winning streak, had 59 in the first half and 28 in the second.

It was 36-all when the Spurs scored 12 consecutive points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Matt Bonner. After Bradley snapped the string with a jumper, San Antonio rattled off another seven in a row to make it 55-38.

Boston cut it to 11 points by the end of the half and got within four in the third, holding the Spurs to nine points in the quarter. It was two points early in the fourth, and San Antonio led 77-70 before Garnett hit a pair of free throws, Rondo stole the ball and fed it to Bradley for a layup and then Garnett hit a layup to make it a one-point game.

Notes: Kentucky coach John Calipari was courtside, two days after winning the NCAA championship. … Pierce was the Eastern Conference’s player of the month for March. He averaged 22 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists while leading the Celtics to a 12-5 record in the month. … The Spurs were 5 for 8 from 3-point range in the second quarter and 0 for 8 in the third. … All of San Antonio’s points in the first quarter came in the paint.

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Celtics Awaken in Time to Beat Rockets 97-92 in OT

Boston has won five straight since the All-Star break, including two in a row in overtime. Houston has lost four in a row.

Ray Allen scored 21, including a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Boston the lead. But Rajon Rondo missed an open layup with a chance to clinch it in regulation, and Goran Dragic tied it for the Rockets.

Pierce scored seven points over a 2:05 span in overtime.

Luis Scola had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Samuel Dalembert had 11 points and 17 boards for Houston.

The Rockets, who had been outrebounded in 10 consecutive games, grabbed 57 rebounds to 38 for Boston, which beat the New York Knicks in overtime on Sunday.

Garnett finished with 13,100 rebounds, one more than O’Neal.

Rondo had 12 assists, but all of his nine points came in the first quarter.

Houston trailed 57-47 with 8 minutes left in the third but outscored the Celtics 21-6 over the rest of the quarter. Boston made just one basket in the final 8:58 of the period, and just one in the first 7:16 of the fourth.

The Celtics trailed 80-70 with 5:33 left before scoring 14 of the next 16 points, taking advantage of back-to-back Houston airballs and 24-second clock violations and making it a three-point game, 80-77, on a fast break from Pierce to Rondo to Allen with 2:49 left.

Houston again ran down the 24-second clock, with Kyle Lowry forcing up a 30-footer at the buzzer. This one caught the rim and Dalembert got the rebound and made a layup. Pierce made two free throws, then Garnett grabbed another defensive rebound — tying O’Neal — and made a pair of free throws to make it 82-81.

Courtney Lee missed a scoop shot, and Allen got the rebound. The Celtics moved the ball up in transition and then Allen got the ball in the left corner, sidestepped Lee’s lunge and drained a 3-pointer to give Boston an 84-82 lead with 36 seconds left.

Scola missed again for Houston and Allen got the rebound. Rondo broke for the basket and got the ball with a clear shot, but he missed the uncontested layup. Scola hit Dragic for a long jumper to tie it.

Allen had a contested shot at the buzzer to win it in regulation, but it went off the rim.

Allen opened the scoring in overtime, and after Dragic’s jumper, Garnett gave Boston an 88-86 lead. Pierce then ran off seven straight Celtics points, starting with a three-point play that gave them the lead for good.

Notes: Pierce has played in 998 NBA games, third all-time on the Celtics. … Rockets coach Kevin McHale, a former Celtic, got a big cheer when he was shown on the scoreboard before the game. … Dalembert fouled out with 48 seconds left in overtime. … Houston fell to 8-3 against the Eastern Conference this season.

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Pistons Beat Celtics 96-81 for 7th Win in 9 Games

Detroit has now won seven of its last nine games, including two victories in five days over the Celtics, who were missing Kevin Garnett (personal reasons) and Brandon Bass (left knee).

Paul Pierce led Boston with 18 points.

The Pistons scored 40 points off 24 turnovers, while the Celtics got only 13 points off Detroit’s 15 giveaways. The Pistons also had a 29-6 edge in second-chance points.

The Pistons led 55-42 at halftime, but they could have been ahead by 20. Detroit took 29 free throws in the first half — the Celtics had just 10 — but missed 12 of them.

Doc Rivers and former Piston Chris Wilcox both picked up technical fouls in the first half for arguing calls.

Boston finally started getting to the line in the third quarter, pulling to 59-54 before Jermaine O’Neal missed a pair of free throws that could have made it a three-point game.

That seemed to take the wind out of Boston’s sails, and the Pistons needed less than three minutes to move the lead back to 12. Moments later, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo picked up two technicals in a span of five seconds and was ejected from the game.

Even with the Pistons missing five more free throws, they led 75-61 at the end of the third.

NOTES: Rivers said he knew on Thursday that Garnett would be unavailable for the game, but doesn’t know if the veteran forward will rejoin the team in time for Monday’s game in Dallas. … The Pistons finished the game with an 46-15 edge in free-throw attempts.

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