Wade Sits as Heat Fall To Celtics

BOSTON – Paul Pierce scored 36 points and the Boston Celtics clinched the Atlantic Division title with a 112-108 victory Wednesday night against the Miami Heat, who played without NBA scoring-leader Dwyane Wade.

Wade missed his first game of the season because of a right hip flexor.

But Boston was without Kevin Garnett for the 13th straight game with a strained right knee and Ray Allen, who hyperextended his elbow Tuesday night in a loss at Chicago.

Rajon Rondo had 27 for Boston. Miami, in its third overtime game in its last five, was led by Michael Beasley with 21 points and Mario Chalmers with 19.

With the score tied at 100 after regulation, Eddie House and Pierce hit 3-pointers and Rondo sank a layup for a 108-100 lead.

Then Chalmers made a 3-pointer and, after Kendrick Perkins hit a free throw, Chalmers sank another 3-pointer, making it 109-106 with 44 seconds left.

But House hit one free throw and Pierce sank two before Beasley's basket ended the scoring.

Boston improved to 51-18 with its second win in six games. Second-place Philadelphia can win no more than 51 and the Celtics have won the season series with the 76ers.

In its previous four games, Miami beat Chicago in double overtime, Boston in regulation and Utah in triple overtime before losing at Philadelphia on Sunday.

Wade's injury ended his career-long streak off 66 straight games played. The Heat did not say how long he would be sidelined, but he was not ruled out of games Friday night at New Jersey and Sunday against Detroit.

Boston had a chance to win in regulation Wednesday, but Pierce's 18-footer from the left missed as the buzzer sounded.

The lead changed hands 11 times in the fourth quarter when the biggest edge was just three points by Miami.

With all their injuries, the Celtics relied on Pierce even more than they usually do.

Besides Garnett and Allen, Leon Powe is expected to miss two weeks after spraining his right knee on Tuesday. Tony Allen missed his 16th straight game with a left thumb injury and Brian Scalabrine sat out his 20th in the last 23 following a concussion.

Glen Davis started at forward in place of Powe after missing the previous four games with a sprained right ankle.

Boston led 34-21 after one quarter but quickly lost control as Miami opened the second period with an 10-2 run that cut the margin to 36-31. The Celtics stretched that to 45-37 before the Heat made an even stronger surge, ending the half with a 17-4 spurt and a 54-49 lead.

The run began with a free throw by Jermaine O'Neal, who had seven of the 17 points, and ended with a layup by Chalmers.

Daequan Cook, starting in place of Wade, gave Miami its first lead, 46-45, on a 3-pointer.

Pierce had 12 points in the first quarter when he hit 5-of-6 shots but was scoreless in the second when he missed all three of his attempts.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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