Avery Bradley scored 22 points, Phil Pressey had a career-high 13 assists and the Boston Celtics held off a late surge by the Charlotte Bobcats for a 106-103 win that snapped a nine-game losing streak on Friday night.
Boston led 104-103 before Jared Sullinger made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left. Charlotte called timeout then got the ball to Jannero Pargo, who missed a straightaway 3-point shot as time expired.
The Bobcats were led by Al Jefferson with 32 points and 10 rebounds and Gary Neal with 13 points.
Charlotte’s season-best five-game winning streak ended as it dropped into the seventh and the next-to-last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It trails Washington by one game after the Wizards beat Orlando 96-86 Friday night.
Boston has the fourth-worst record in the NBA after entering the game tied with Orlando for the third-worst.
Both teams were missing their top guards. Kemba Walker sat out for Charlotte with a sore right groin and Boston’s Rajon Rondo missed the game with soreness in his lower left leg as rookie Pressey started in his place. Rondo has played 29 games this season while coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered on Jan. 25, 2013.
In a game of surges, Jefferson’s short jumper gave Charlotte a 97-96 lead with 4:01 remaining. Boston went ahead 104-97 by scoring the next eight points on a 3-pointer by Sullinger, a layup by Jeff Green and a 3-pointer by Bradley.
Luke Ridnour’s basket with 1:39 to go stopped the run and Jefferson’s follow of a missed shot made it 104-101 with 51 seconds left.
Then Jefferson’s layup cut the lead to one point with 29 seconds to play.
With the 24-second clock about to expire, Sullinger missed a 3-pointer, but Pressey tipped the rebound to Brandon Bass. The Bobcats fouled him and Boston took the ball out from the side. Sullinger was fouled immediately when he took the inbounds pass.
Boston had scored the last 12 points of the third quarter, turning a 75-72 deficit into an 84-75 lead. Bass had five points and Green added four during the rally.
The Celtics stretched that to 90-77 before the Bobcats came back with a 10-point run to cut the lead to three. Bradley’s basket stopped the surge, but Charlotte tied it at 92 with 5:13 to go on a layup by Jefferson and a 3-pointer by Gerald Henderson.
The Bobcats had taken their biggest lead, 47-38, on Pargo’s 14-footer with 7:32 left in the first half.
The Celtics tied the game at 51 on a short jump hook by Sullinger with 2:20 remaining in the half. Charlotte went ahead 55-53, but Boston scored the last four points of the half on an eight-foot turnaround shot by Green and a tip-in by Sullinger 6.5 seconds before intermission for a 57-55 lead.
NOTES: Boston F Kris Humphries returned after missing two games with a sore right knee. … Sullinger suffered a mild left ankle sprain in the third quarter and returned in the fourth. … Pressey’s previous high was 11 assists. … Jefferson is 1-12 in his career against the Celtics. He has a double-double in 10 of his past 12 games.