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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rondo breaks out of slumber to lift Celtics to win

BOSTON (AP) Rajon Rondo's miserable March is over.

News photo
Six appeal: Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young reaches for the ball ahead of Boston's Jeff Green. The Celtics won 99-82. AP PHOTO

The Celtics point guard had 16 points and 13 assists to lead Boston to a 99-82 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night and help the defending conference champions reclaim the second-best playoff position in the East.

"He's getting himself ready," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You can see what they're all doing, they're sharpening their tools. . . . They know where they're at."

With the win, the Celtics and Heat were tied at 54-23 with four games left in the regular season — including one head-to-head matchup in Miami on Sunday. The Celtics would win the tiebreaker because they beat Miami in their first three meetings this season.

"We want all these games," said Kevin Garnett, who scored 14 points. "Playoffs is like the main course. This will definitely be an appetizer."

Reserve Evan Turner scored 21 — two points short of his career high — for the Sixers, who 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.

"When we play a team like this, I told our guys we want to keep growing every single game," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "That's why coming down this stretch these games give us a blueprint on what we have to do to beat these teams."

Thunder 101, Nuggets 94

In Denver, Kevin Durant scored 32 points and Oklahoma City beat the Nuggets in a possible first-round playoff preview.

Russell Westbrook added 18 points and James Harden 13 as the Thunder all but secured home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs, building a four-game lead over the Nuggets with five games left, including a rematch Friday night in Oklahoma City.

Jazz 86, Lakers 85

In Los Angeles, rookie Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 22 points and hit the go-ahead free throw with 6 seconds to play.

Kobe Bryant scored 20 points and hit a tying 3-pointer with 16 seconds left, but fumbled the ball away on an ill-conceived drive at the buzzer.

Warriors 108, Trail Blazers 87

In Portland, David Lee had 29 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, tempering the celebration as Portland secured a playoff spot.

Monta Ellis added 30 points for the Warriors, who led by as many as 26 points.

Spurs 97, Hawks 90

In Atlanta, Tony Parker scored 26 points and San Antonio moved closer to home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Bulls 97, Suns 94

In Chicago, Derrick Rose finished with 19 points, Luol Deng scored 18 and the Bulls continued to close in on the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Knicks 131, Raptors 118

In New York, Toney Douglas scored 28 points, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire each added 23, and the Knicks closed within a half-game of sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Nets 107, Timberwolves 105

In Newark, N.J., Deron Williams capped a career-tying 21-assist performance by hitting a game-winning jumper with 1.7 seconds to play.

Wizards 107, Pistons 105

In Washington, John Wall scored 16 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.

Kings 104, Rockets 101

In Houston, Marcus Thornton and Samuel Dalembert scored 21 points apiece.

Clippers 82, Grizzlies 81

In Memphis, Mo Williams scored 16 points and keyed a fourth-quarter rally.

Cavaliers 99, Bobcats 89

In Cleveland, Ramon Sessions scored 18 points to pace seven players in double figures.

Magic 78, Bucks 72

In Orlando, Dwight Howard had 18 points and 17 rebounds.

Coupled with Atlanta's 97-90 loss to San Antonio, the Magic clinched the No. 4 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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