BOSTON (AP) — Rajon Rondo scored 16 points with 13 assists and the Boston Celtics moved into a tie for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 99-82 on Tuesday night.
With the win, the Celtics and Heat were tied at 54-23 with four games left. The Celtics would win the tiebreaker because they beat Miami in their first three meetings this season; the teams play again in Miami on Sunday.
Paul Pierce scored 18 points, Kevin Garnett had 14 and Ray Allen had 13 for Boston, which is 8-8 in the past month. Nenad Krstic scored eight points in 18 minutes after missing two games with bruised right knee, and Jermaine O’Neal had nine points in 12 minutes as the Celtics try to find big men to fill in for Shaquille O’Neal.
Reserve Evan Turner scored 21 — two points short of his career high — for Philadelphia, which clinched a playoff berth on Friday but could still finish anywhere from fifth to seventh in the East. They ended the night in sixth, four games behind the Atlanta Hawks and one-half game ahead of the New York Knicks.
Shaquille O’Neal missed 27 games before returning Sunday and lasting just 5 minutes, 29 seconds until leaving the game with a strained right calf muscle. The Celtics do not have a timetable for his return, coach Doc Rivers said, and getting Krstic and O’Neal healthy would be crucial if they’re going to have a chance to return to the NBA finals.
Philadelphia led 49-47 with just over a minute left in the half before the Celtics scored seven of the last eight points heading into the break. Boston then scored the first nine points of the third quarter to complete a 16-1 run and turn a two-point deficit into a 63-50 lead.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)