Paul Pierce scored 29 points and added nine assists as the Boston Celtics pulled into a tie with the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference after beating them 105-94. Playing without their defensive leader Kevin Garnett for the seventh consecutive game, the Celtics limited All Star LeBron James to 21 points. "This is a big win - both teams are playing for first place in the East and home court advantage [in the play-offs]," Pierce said.
"They were physical, but we played our game and limited our turnovers." Boston (49-14) forward Leon Powe had a season-high 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavaliers (48-13) still hold a better winning percentage than the Celtics after dropping their first game in five. Mo Williams led the way for Cleveland with 26 points while James finished five-for-15 shooting from the field. The game was tied at 57-57 with 6:56 remaining in the third before the Celtics closed the quarter with a 21-12 run to take a 78-69 advantage.
In a rematch of last season's hard fought seven-game Eastern Conference semi-finals series, things became testy in the third quarter. Boston forward Glen Davis was ejected after committing a hard foul on Anderson Varejao and players had to be separated. Meanwhile in other action, Dwayne Wade hit 40 points as the Miami Heat defeated the Toronto Raptors 108-102, while the Orlando Magic narrowly saw off the New Jersey Nets 105-102.
The Detroit Pistons had a comfortable 108-91 success over the Golden State Warriors, while Tony Parker led the scoring with 19 points for the San Antonio Spurs as they cruised to a 100-78 win over the Washington Wizards. * With agencies