BOSTON — Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was ready to give his aging starters some rest. First, though, he needed to know that his bench could handle it.
The Boston backups proved themselves capable in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night, expanding a 20-point lead to 37 and helping the Celtics coast to a 114-83 victory over Washington for their most lopsided win of the season. Except for Shaquille O’Neal, who’s battled injuries, all of the starters played a season-low in minutes.
“I know Rajon (Rondo) may have had 30, but other than that I could take those every night,” Rivers said. “That would be terrific.”
Paul Pierce had 23 points, Kevin Garnett scored 18 and Rondo had 12 points with 13 assists before sitting out the entire fourth quarter. O’Neal scored 13 points in 22 minutes.
With one of the oldest lineups in the league, Rivers has remained mindful of the minutes his starters play, restricting their playing time to keep them fresh for what they expect to be a long postseason. But he’s waited 10 games before resorting to pitch counts.
“You’ve got to get yourself thrown back into the season,” Rivers said. “But now it’s time to get our minutes to where we want them.”
Nick Young scored 20 points for the Wizards, who were without No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall and center Yi Jianlian. Both also missed Tuesday night’s game, a 109-94 victory over Toronto.
“We didn’t play them last night and we won,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “Not much to say.”
The depleted roster helped Boston pull away early and rest their aging starters in its first game back after a four-city road trip.
“I told our guys, ‘They reached right into our chest and just took away our will,'” Saunders said. “We just couldn’t do anything. They passed and shot at will.”
The Celtics have won three in a row and eight of their last nine.
“They’re built for a championship; we’re rebuilding,” said Gilbert Arenas, who scored 20 on Tuesday and just nine on Wednesday. “These are the games when you’re on the playground and you beat somebody up, and then the real bully comes and beats you up. We played great last night … and then the big fish came and whooped us up.”
It was 89-69 at the end of three quarters, and the Celtics’ bench led by as many as 37 in the fourth. Delonte West scored 12 points in his first game back from a 10-game suspension, Semih Erden scored nine and Glen “Big Baby” Davis had eight rebounds.
“It was fun for me to be able to sit back and watch these guys. I just found myself being a fan of the game, which I am anyway,” said West, who was punished after pleading guilty to weapons charges. “You realize it’s a championship-caliber team and I’m a part of it.”
Boston trailed 12-9 before scoring 12 of the game’s next 13 points, including three straight inside baskets from O’Neal. Washington cut it to three points in the second quarter against the Boston bench, but the Celtics’ starters returned and scored 12 in a row, this time with Garnett putting in three baskets.
Garnett also hit a long 2-pointer in the closing seconds of the half to make it 60-44.
Notes: West was a free agent after spending last season with Cleveland, but the Celtics inherited the suspension when they signed him. … Wall, averaging 18.1 points and 9.8 assists, is sidelined with a sprained left foot, and the 7-foot Yi has a bruised right knee. … The Wizards had gone five straight games with at least 25 assists, but had only 12 on Wednesday.
Heat 123, Suns 96
MIAMI — Chris Bosh scored a season-high 35 points before sitting out the fourth quarter, LeBron James had 20 and the Miami Heat ran away from the Phoenix Suns 123-96 on Wednesday night.
Dwyane Wade added 17 points, six rebounds and six assists for Miami, which used two big runs — a 24-9 spurt to end the first half, followed by an 18-3 flurry that closed the third quarter — to snap the Suns’ three-game winning streak. James also had nine assists and eight boards.
All five Phoenix starters scored in double figures, led by Steve Nash’s 17. Nash only had two assists, matching his lowest total since Dec. 29, 2008, against Oklahoma City, a span of 141 games.
Grant Hill scored 15 and Channing Frye added 14 for the Suns.
Eddie House scored 15 for Miami, which outrebounded the Suns 42-32.
|Lakers 103, Pistons 90|
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kobe Bryant scored 33 points without playing in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers took advantage of Richard Hamilton’s early ejection in the easy win.
Bryant scored 24 in the first half, helping the Lakers open a 14-point halftime lead, and the struggling Pistons allowed the first seven points of the third quarter to fall behind 66-45. Pau Gasol added 25 points and 12 rebounds for Los Angeles.
Rodney Stuckey scored 18 points for the Pistons.
|Hornets 99, Mavericks 97|
NEW ORLEANS — David West scored 17 points and stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki with 2 seconds left to preserve the win for New Orleans.
Dallas, trailing 98-97, was trying to set up for a potential game-winning shot when West stole the ball and made one of two free throws for the final margin.
Chris Paul had 20 points and 11 assists, and Emeka Okafor had 13 points and 10 rebounds as New Orleans avenged its first loss of the season Monday night in Dallas.
Nowitzki had 29 points and nine rebounds for the Mavs.
|Thunder 116, Rockets 99|
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant scored 24 points in only three quarters and Russell Westbrook had 21 points and 12 assists in Oklahoma City’s most lopsided win this season.
Durant came in second in the league at 41½ minutes per game, but played just under 30 with Oklahoma City comfortably ahead.
Luis Scola had 26 points and Kevin Martin scored 19 for Houston, but both also stayed on the sidelines in the final period with the Rockets in the second leg of a back-to-back.
|Timberwolves 113, Clippers 111|
MINNEAPOLIS — Michael Beasley scored 33 points and hit the winning jumper with 2.3 seconds to play to lift Minnesota.
Kevin Love added 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who nearly blew another big lead in the fourth quarter but held on to hand Los Angeles its seventh straight loss.
Eric Gordon scored 30 points and Blake Griffin had 26 points and 17 boards for the Clippers (1-11), who haven’t won since beating Oklahoma City on Nov. 3.
|Raptors 94, 76ers 86|
PHILADELPHIA — Andrea Bargnani scored a season-high 30 points and Sonny Weems added a career-high 25 for Toronto in a matchup of two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
Reggie Evans, who began the night fourth in the league in rebounding at 11.5 per game, pulled down 14 for the Raptors, who improved to 3-9 and snapped a two-game losing streak.
Elton Brand led the Sixers with 27 points, Jrue Holiday added 17, and rookie Evan Turner had his second double-double with 11 points and a career-best 12 rebounds.