Heat 84, Celtics 77
BOSTON (AP)—Four teams were interested in the outcome of Monday night’s game between Miami and Boston. The Celtics weren’t one of them.
The Heat defeated Boston 84-77, getting 28 points and 11 rebounds from Lamar Odom to retain a chance to open the playoffs at home. The game helped sort out the Eastern Conference playoff race between Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans and the Knicks, but it meant nothing to the Celtics.
Boston, with a losing streak that has now stretched to five games, rested Paul Pierce a day after backing into the playoffs.
“We just have to play well when we get into the playoffs,” Celtics forward Walter McCarty said. “What’s done before the playoffs doesn’t count in the playoffs. Whether we backed in or got in, we’re in.”
Miami improved to 41-40 and moved into a tie with the Bucks for fourth place in the East. Each has one game remaining, and Milwaukee holds the tiebreaker.
“It’s nice to be playing for that,” said Miami coach Stan Van Gundy, who took over the team right before the season started and saw them lose their first seven games. “It feels great to know we can’t finish below .500. It’s a great accomplishment.”
With New Orleans losing to New York, the Heat can finish no lower than fifth.
“We had some different agendas,” Boston coach John Carroll said. “I wouldn’t use ‘beauty.’ I wouldn’t use ‘artistic.’ Not the words I would use. … If we had played our starting group heavy minutes, and if Paul had played, it might have been slightly different.”
With Pierce resting a sore right ankle, Ricky Davis scored 25 and Mark Blount had 10 points and nine rebounds. Boston will enter the playoffs despite finishing the regular season at least 10 games below .500; The worst record for a playoff team was the 1967-68 Chicago Bulls, who finished fourth in the West at 29-53.
Reserve Udonis Haslem had 11 rebounds for the Heat.
“We’re right in the position we want to be in,” Odom said.
Miami led 61-52 with 1:37 left in the third quarter before Boston scored the last five points of the quarter. Marcus Banks hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth.
Miami led 73-70 when Dwayne Wade scored on a putback with 3:51 to play. After a Celtics timeout, Davis hit a jumper from the foul line to cut Boston’s deficit to three points, and Chris Mihm blocked Odom under the basket to start a fast break.
But Rafer Alston stole the ball back at the other end, and Davis fouled him to prevent the breakaway. He made the free throw for a 76-72 lead with 3:09 left.
It was 77-72 when Banks airballed a 27-footer as the shot clock expired.Odom hit a 3 with 2:00 left to make it 80-72, and the fans started filing out.
Pierce had played 110 consecutive games, including the playoffs, before sitting out. … The Celtics used their 13th different starting lineup. … Brian Grant logged his 20,000th career minute. …Miami is 6-17 when scoring80-89 points.