Pierce, Celtics edge Clippers
nBoston has won four straight since losing All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the season because of a knee injury. ASSOCIATED PRESS,
The Celtics keep rolling without Rajon Rondo.
Not even a late comeback by one of the NBA's best teams could keep Boston from beating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-104 on Sunday and improve to 4-0 since a knee injury ended their star point guard's season.
"A lot of people say that we don't have a chance to go to the playoffs, we can't do this, we can't do that," starting guard Avery Bradley said. "We know we have each other and we're going to go out there and fight for each other, no matter what, every single night."
The Clippers played without their own brilliant point guard. Chris Paul missed his seventh straight game with a bruised right knee cap.
But they cut a 98-83 deficit to 103-101 on a 3-pointer by Eric Bledsoe with 56 seconds remaining. Then Bradley drew an offensive foul on Los Angeles' Jamal Crawford with 26 seconds to go.
Paul Pierce then held on to the ball -- and was surprised that the Clippers didn't foul him -- before making a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to clinch the win and finish with a team-high 22 points.
"If we get a stop there (with) three or four seconds to go, we've got plenty of time," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of his decision not to foul. "If I was going to do it, I would have fouled Courtney Lee early right when he got the ball."
But he didn't want to foul Pierce, an accurate shooter down the stretch whether from the field or the free throw line.
"Any time the game's on the line, whether he missed 15 in a row, we know the last one's good," Celtics guard Jason Terry said.
The teams played without the point guards voted starters in the All-Star game in Houston on Feb. 17. Rondo has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. With Paul sidelined, the Clippers have lost five of seven games, including their biggest setback and lowest scoring game of the season, 98-73 at Toronto on Friday night.
"We're just a little out of rhythm," Los Angeles forward Matt Barnes said. "Guys are just playing a little out of position, but that's no excuse."
The Celtics also are missing rookie forward Jared Sullinger after he had season-ending back surgery Friday.
But they moved within 1a-x games of the Milwaukee Bucks for seventh place in the East and 3a-x ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot in the conference.
Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points each for the Celtics and led a 52-point contribution from the bench.
Heat 100, Raptors 85: LeBron James scored 30 points, Chris Bosh had 28 against his former team and Miami beat Toronto for its 10th straight victory over the Raptors.
Dwyane Wade added 23 points as the Heat bounced back after Friday's 102-89 loss at Indiana, ensuring that coach Erik Spolestra will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars. The Heat clinched the best record in the East through Feb. 3 with the win. Had Miami lost, New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson would have been in charge of the East's bench.
Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 29 points and DeMar DeRozan had 27. Kyle Lowry scored 10 points and Aaron Gray had 12 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost four of five.
Lakers 98, Pistons 97: Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and he contested Detroit's last-second alley-oop attempt to help Los Angeles hold on for the win.
The Lakers blew an 18-point third-quarter lead but went back ahead for good on Kobe Bryant's driving three-point play with 1:09 remaining.
Bryant scored 18 points for the Lakers, who have won five of six.