BOSTON – A double-overtime victory against LeBron James and the defending NBA champions was difficult to celebrate for Paul Pierce and the Celtics.
News of Rajon Rondo’s season-ending knee injury spoiled the party.
“Everyone was really happy for the win,” Pierce said after Boston beat the Miami Heat 100-98 Sunday. “It brought a dark cloud in this room when you heard the news.”
When coach Doc Rivers told his players after the game, the joy of ending their six-game losing streak stopped, even if they had just outlasted the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference, which came in with a four-game winning streak.
Now the Celtics must try to keep winning without their leader, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee late in Friday night’s 123-112 win, also in double overtime, in Atlanta.
They won Sunday after Pierce’s 22-foot jumper with 31 seconds left gave them a 99-98 lead.
But making the playoffs got harder as the Celtics try to hang on to the eighth and final postseason spot in the conference with a 2 1-2-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Obviously, the Rondo news is pretty tough. I knew it before the game,” Rivers said. “I just didn’t think it was any time to tell any of our guys.”
This game was the first in Boston for Ray Allen since he left the Celtics after five seasons and signed as a free agent with Miami. He scored 21 points.
Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Pierce added 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics.
Rondo’s injury “puts this team and the rest of the guys in a position to be ready to step up,” Pierce said. Sunday’s win “was a perfect example. We showed we are capable.”
James had 34 points for the Heat, whose winning streak stopped at four.
“As much as I’ve been a rival with Boston over the years, I never want to see anyone go down,” James said. “It’s terrible, not only for their team but for the league.”
After Pierce’s basket, James had a chance to put the Heat ahead but missed a 12-foot jumper with 6.8 seconds to go from the left with defender Jeff Green jumping out at him. Pierce got the rebound and was fouled by Shane Battier.
He sank the first shot. Then, as a fan shouted “This one’s for Rondo,” he missed the second.
Miami had one last chance, but Battier missed a long jumper at the buzzer.
Rivers did not mention Rondo’s injury in his meeting with reporters about an hour before the game, but Courtney Lee started in his place. Doctors decided to keep Rondo out of the game after he went through his normal pregame routine but complained of pain that he thought was in his hamstring. An MRI was done and team physician Dr. Brian McKeon learned the results during the game.
L.A. Lakers 105, Oklahoma City 96: Kobe Bryant had 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, Steve Nash added seven of his 17 points in the final 5½ minutes, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the NBA-leading Oklahoma City Thunder 105-96.
Pau Gasol scored 16 points in a reserve role as the Lakers picked up the most impressive victory of their thoroughly unimpressive season, coolly maintaining a small lead down the stretch of their second straight win after a four-game skid.
Los Angeles had lost nine of its last 11 against the powerful Thunder, including four of five in the clubs’ second-round playoff series last spring.
Kevin Durant scored 35 points and Russell Westbrook had 17 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the road-weary Thunder, who finished their longest trip of the season at 3-3.
New Orleans 91, Memphis 83: Ryan Anderson scored 22 points, connecting on seven 3-pointers, and the New Orleans Hornets beat the host Memphis Grizzlies 91-83.
Anderson was 7 of 13 from the field, all of his attempts coming from outside the arc. He capped a late New Orleans surge that put the game out of reach, snapping Memphis’ two-game winning streak.
Detroit 104, Orlando 102: Brandon Knight had a career-high 31 points, including five 3-pointers, and Greg Monroe scored 17 points and the Detroit Pistons ended a two-game losing streak with a 104-102 win over the Orlando Magic.
The Magic had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds after a missed free throw, but missed three putback attempts as the final horn sounded.