MANILA, Philippines – The Miami Heat, playing without All-Star guard Dwyane Wade, had no problems dealing with the Detroit Pistons, 98-75, while the Boston Celtics clobbered the fading Philadelphia 76ers, 103-79.
With Wade out due to a sore right ankle, LeBron James and Chris Bosh combined to carry the scoring load for the Heat. James had a game-high 26 points, while Bosh added 22 points and nine rebounds.
James Jones (18 points) and Norris Cole (10 points) both scored in double figures off the bench for Miami.
|Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) moves against Detroit Pistons' Brandon Knight (front centre) and Tayshaun Prince (22) in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida April 8, 2012. Photo by Andrew Innerarity, Reuters.
It was a vital victory for the Heat, who were coming off an 82-97 loss against the Memphis Grizzlies in their previous game, which snapped their 17-game winning streak at home.
"It was a good bounce back from the other night," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told NBA.com. "The second unit came in and sparked us. And we got a lot of good contributions."
With Miami's victory and Chicago’s loss earlier in the day, the Heat moved to within two games of the Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Miami broke the game wide open in the second quarter, when they outscored the Pistons 31-19. Jones had three three-pointers in the period.
"I had an opportunity... I just tried to go out and make some shots and I did," said Jones, who got extended playing time with Wade not playing.
Pistons rookie Brandon Knight had a team-high 16 points, but he got little help from his veterans and Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe both scored only 11 points each. Tayshaun Prince played poorly, scoring only eight markers and struggling to contain James on the offensive end.
Meanwhile, the Celtics extended the Sixers’ misery as they sent Philadelphia to their fourth loss in a row.
Kevin Garnett top-scored with 20 points, while Rajon Rondo had 15 assists, and the Celtics led by as much as 28 points against the Sixers.
"We know what's at stake," Paul Pierce said. "A fourth seed, maybe a third."
Boston's victory allowed them to move within two games of the Indiana Pacers for the third seed in the East. They are also three games ahead of both Philadelphia and New York for the lead in the Atlantic Division.
"This team is taking it to another level. They make you look bad," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of the Celtics. "They are going to be a handful and I wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs."
The Celtics burned the Sixers from the floor as they shot nearly 59% for the game, while at the same time holding Philly to below 40% shooting.
"The defense is real good, guys are locked in," said Boston coach Doc Rivers.
It was Boston's second win in a row following consecutive losses against San Antonio and Chicago. They play the Miami Heat on Tuesday in a game that may have implications on playoff positioning.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Nets outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime, 122-117.
Gerald Green had 32 points off the bench, Deron Williams had 18 points and 10 assists and the Nets survived a 34-point effort from Antawn Jamison.