Rondo, Pierce and Garnett help Celtics top Wizards

Posted April 08, 2011, at 10:30 p.m.
Last modified April 09, 2011, at 12:03 a.m.

BOSTON — Boston coach Doc Rivers wasn’t hiding it. He hopes his team shows up ready Sunday to play a key game.

Rajon Rondo had 20 points and 14 assists to lead the Celtics to a 104-88 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night, setting up a showdown with Miami for the Eastern Conference’s second spot.

“We control our own destiny for the second seed now,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to win our next two games.”

But when he was asked if he was concerned with how his team would play, he didn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” he said. “If we had taken care of business this would have been decided. When we play well, we can beat anybody. When we play poorly, we can get beat by anybody. We’ll see. Logically, yes, but hopefully.”

Paul Pierce (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (15 and 11) also had double-doubles for Boston, which remains tied with Miami after the Heat, who host the Celtics on Sunday, beat Charlotte 112-103.

Ray Allen had 13 points, but was just 1 for 6 from 3-point range.

The Celtics never trailed and had a fairly easy time as both teams hardly dug-in defensively for most of the first three quarters.

“We’re trying to push for the second seed. It’s a good win,” Pierce said. “We’ve kind of struggled in the second end of back-to-backs.”

Boston was coming off a 97-81 loss at Chicago on Thursday.

Andray Blatche led the Wizards with 20 points and 10 rebounds, John Wall scored 20 and Jordan Crawford 19.

Rondo had as many assists as the Wizards.

“One thing they don’t do is give you many fastbreak points,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said of Boston’s defense. “They’re one of the worst teams at offensive rebounding because when the ball goes up, they send people back. They’d rather give you the defensive rebound and not give up the open floor opportunities.”

Boston, which shot 59 percent and led by three at the half, scored the first seven points of the third quarter to open a double-digit lead, 66-56, on Garnett’s three-point play.

Most of the lead was due to Rondo controlling the tempo.

“He does a great job of getting into the paint and holding onto the ball,” Wall said. “He’s got trust in his teammates.”

Pierce agreed.

“When he pushes the ball, that makes us better,” he said.

Garnett, trailing on a fastbreak, was grabbed as he went up for a shot. The ball fell through as he was falling to the floor, and Garnett then pounded his chest while lying on the floor, bringing loud cheers from a relatively listless crowd. The Celtics pushed it to 79-67 on Rondo’s spinning drive in the lane, but Washington scored the next seven points.

The Celtics led 83-75 after three quarters.

Washington did close it to 87-83 on Crawford’s break-away dunk with a little over 7 minutes to play, but Rondo, Allen and Pierce followed with baskets to push Boston up by 10 with 3½ minutes left.

Boston then tightened up defensively and the Wizards never threatened the rest of the way.

Boston started the game quickly, opening a 12-point lead midway into the opening quarter before the Wizards closed it to 28-23 after one.

The Celtics had opened a nine-point edge on Pierce’s free throw early in the second, but the Wizards whittled it to 59-56 at halftime.

NOTES: Boston F-C Jermaine O’Neal was given the night off to rest with the team playing four games in five days. He played the last five after missing 36 due to a sore left knee. … Boston G Delonte West was whistled for a pair of technicals by referee Josh Tiven and ejected in the second quarter. “I’ve got a feeling he said the right thing,” Rivers said. … Blatche averaged 27.5 poi nts and 14 rebounds in his previous four games. … The Wizards fell to 0-9 on the road against Atlantic Division teams, but they are 7-1 at home.

Bulls 93, Cavaliers 82

CLEVELAND — Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 93-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Chicago, which has won six straight and 18 of 20, will have home-court advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Bulls hadn’t finished with the best record in the the East since 1997-98, the most recent of their six NBA championships in the Michael Jordan era.

The Bulls, winners of five in a row and nine of 10 on the road, had six players score in double figures. Ronnie Brewer had 12 points while Derrick Rose added 11 points and eight assists. Joakim Noah scored 11 points while Luol Deng and Kyle Korver had 10 points apiece.

J.J. Hickson led Cleveland with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Daniel Gibson scored 14 points while Ramon Sessions added 13. The Cavaliers, who had won their previous two games, fell into a tie with Minnesota for the league’s worst record.

Chicago led 54-46 at halftime, but the Cavaliers cut the lead to three midway through the third quarter. The Bulls scored 10 straight points and ended the period on an 18-6 run.

Hickson’s thunderous dunk brought the Cavaliers to 60-57 at the 7:06 mark of the quarter, but the Bulls scored six straight points, forcing Cleveland coach Byron Scott to call timeout. The run contiued on Deng’s layup and a basket by Boozer, giving Chicago a 70-57 lead.

Hickson scored two baskets for Cleveland, but the Bulls ended the quarter on an 8-2 run and led 78-63.

Rose’s two free throws broke a 14-14 tie midway through the first quarter, giving Chicago the lead for good. Cleveland cut the lead to 31-30 early in the second period, but the Bulls quickly built a 14-point lead.

Alonzo Gee scored 11 points and Baron Davis added 10 for Cleveland.

Before the game, the Cavaliers honored their Hall of Fame radio play-by-play man Joe Tait, who is retiring at the end of the season, his 39th announcing Cleveland’s games. A banner bearing Tait’s name was raised to the rafters next to the Cavaliers’ retired numbers. Tait has called 3,381 Cavaliers’ games. His last one will be Wednesday against Washington.

NOTES: Noah hit a hook shot from about 35 feet at the end of the first half, but it came after time ran out. … The Bulls play their next two games on the road, Sunday at Orlando and Tuesday at New York. … Cavaliers F Samardo Samuels (groin) missed his third straight game. G-F Christian Eyenga has been benched for the last two games because he has missed two many defensive assignments .

Hornets 109, Suns 97

NEW ORLEANS — Willie Green hit his first 12 shots and finished with a season-high 31 points to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 109-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Green made a 3-pointer soon after entering midway through the first quarter. He made all five of his shots in the second quarter, one in the third quarter and put the Suns away with five more in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter.

He finally missed, failing to even hit the rim when he tried to draw a foul on Phoenix’s Jared Dudley with less than 5 minutes left.

Trevor Ariza added 21 points as the Hornets tied Portland for sixth place in the Western Conference.

Dudley had a team-high 18 points for the Suns, who played without NBA assists leader Steve Nash.

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