BOSTON (AP) -Even without Paul Pierce, the Boston Celtics had too much for Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
Rajon Rondo had 22 points and 14 assists, Kevin Garnett had a season-high nine assists, and Tony Allen made a key steal in the final minute to help the Celtics beat the Heat 107-102 on Wednesday night.
Pierce watched from the bench in street clothes after spraining his left foot Monday night. Garnett played in just his seventh game after missing 10 because of a knee injury. And backup guard Marquis Daniels missed his 27th straight game with a thumb injury that required surgery.
``It plays with the rhythm of your team,' Garnett said. ``For the most part, we haven't even been at full strength.'
Allen started in place of Pierce, Boston's leading scorer, and stripped the ball from Wade near the Miami free-throw line with 37 seconds left. He was fouled and made both shots for a 99-94 lead. That forced the Heat to foul and the Celtics scored their last eight points on free throws, five by Ray Allen, to improve to 31-16, best in the Atlantic Division.
``I just reached my left hand out there and got the steal, hit the two free throws, and that was the game,' Tony Allen said.
Wade led the Heat with 30 points and 13 assists but committed six turnovers.
``We went through a stretch where we didn't hit enough shots,' he said. ``We fought back, but we gave up too wide of a gap.'
Rondo was the main reason the Celtics held off the Heat.
He hit a 3-pointer at the 24-second buzzer to make it 60-58 early in the third quarter and the Celtics never trailed after that, although Miami stayed close. Boston won its second straight game after losing three in a row, while Miami lost for the fifth time in six games.
Allen scored 23 points, and Garnett added 14. Rafer Alston and Udonis Haslem each scored 15 for Miami.
The Celtics continually found the open man, getting 29 assists on 37 field goals.
``It was contagious,' Rondo said. ``We shared the ball tonight and played very unselfishly.'
The last time the teams met, the Celtics won 112-106 on Jan. 6 after Rondo's layup on a pass from Pierce a split-second before the fourth-quarter buzzer sent the game into overtime. Rondo finished that game with 25 points.
Pierce missed the rematch after being hurt in a 99-88 win at Washington and is expected to sit out at least one more game.
Wade gave the Heat one last chance when his 3-pointer cut Boston's lead to 105-102 with 7 seconds left, but Ray Allen secured the win with two free throws with 4.9 seconds to go.
Miami dropped below .500 at 24-25 after the opener of a stretch of eight road games and just one home game. Wade wasn't thinking about the losing record.
``This is a tough road trip we are on. We have to focus game to game,' said Wade, whose right knee was wrapped in ice afterward.
Jermaine O'Neal returned after missing the previous game with back spasms.
``We have several guys in there who are wounded warriors,' Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, but ``We're not unique.'
With the score tied at 74 entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics scored the first five points. They led 82-78 after Wade hit a free throw, then scored the next six points on a short jumper by Rasheed Wallace followed by a dunk and a layup by Kendrick Perkins that gave them the biggest lead of the game, 88-78 with 6:36 to go.
With 2.3 seconds left in the first half, Michael Beasley tied it at 51 with a 3-pointer. Then Daequan Cook fouled Rondo near midcourt with 0.3 seconds left and the point guard hit two of three shots for a 53-51 halftime lead.
Notes: Both teams hit more than 51 percent of their shots in the first half. ... The Celtics swept the season series 3-0. ... Boston outrebounded Miami 53-38 with six Celtics getting at least five apiece.
The Associated Press News Service
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