Paul Pierce hit a jumper with 20 seconds left to give the Boston Celtics a 115-111 victory over the New Jersey Nets last night, clinching a play-off spot for the defending NBA champions. The Nets overcame a nine-point deficit in the final quarter to lead 111-108 on Vince Carter's three-point basket late in the game, but the Celtics went on a 7-0 run to close out the game. Pierce, who was 12-of-14 from the field for 31 points, took Jarvis Hayes down low and shook loose to hit the game-winning shot before Ray Allen knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
The Cleveland Cavaliers also secured their post-season ticket after rolling to a 91-73 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. LeBron James posted 23 points and eight rebounds and Delonte West recorded eight steals to inspire the Cavaliers to the success. The Chicago Bulls kept their play-off hopes alive as John Salmons scored 23 points in their 110-88 win over the Golden State Warriors.
The Italian forward Danilo Gallinari had a career-high 17 points to help the New York Knicks end a three-game losing streak with a hard-fought 109-105 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, while Dwayne Wade led the scoring with 35 points as the Miami Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 135-129. Carlos Boozer scored 20 points for the Utah Jazz as they saw off the Houston Rockets 101-94, while the Dallas Mavericks got the better of the San Antonio Spurs 107-102.
Brandon Roy scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half as the Portland Trail Blazers scored a 107-105 victory over the Indiana Pacers, while the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed their third successive triumph with an 88-83 victory against the Washington Wizards. * With agencies