BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 30 points, including 20 in the second half, and the Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat 112-108 on Sunday night for their fourth straight victory.
The win moved Boston within percentage points of Cleveland for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have one more victory than the Cavaliers, but also one more loss. Boston (48-26) also equaled its win total from last season.
Jae Crowder added 25 points and six rebounds for the Celtics.
Tyler Johnson had 24 points and James Johnson scored 20 for the Heat, who are a half-game ahead of the Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East. Chicago beat Milwaukee earlier in the day.
Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 15 rebounds for Miami.
Boston led by 10 entering the final period before allowing Miami to get back into the game with an 8-0 run.
James Johnson hit one of two free throws to get the Heat within two with less than a minute to play. Then the Celtics’ Marcus Smart got the benefit of a goaltending call on the second of his free throw attempts to put Boston up four with 20.1 seconds left.
The Celtics trailed by five at halftime, but outscored the Heat 32-17 in the third quarter.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was critical of his team’s defensive effort late in a win over Phoenix on Friday, when Devin Booker scored 70 points for the Suns.
At one point in the second quarter Sunday, Stevens chastised his team’s performance on the defensive end again as the Celtics fell into a 15-point hole.
They responded by closing out the final 7:09 of the half on a 25-15 run.
Heat: Whiteside had his 51st double-double of the season. … Dion Waiters sat out with a sprained left ankle. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there is no timetable on Waiters’ return.
Celtics: Thomas had his 65th game with 20-plus points this season, tying him with Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook for the most in the NBA. … Thomas extended his franchise record to 48 consecutive games with a 3-pointer. … Avery Bradley returned after missing a game with stomach flu. … Crowder had his ninth 20-point game of the season.
Heat: At the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.
Celtics: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
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