Miami With Boston down by 12 points in the fourth quarter, The Celtics' Paul Pierce wanted the ball. His coach and teammates were more than eager to grant his request.
Pierce scored 33 points including 14 in the fourth and added nine rebounds as the Celtics beat Miami, 82-77, Tuesday night, handing the Heat their third loss in four games since Alonzo Mourning's return.
"We rode our leading scorer tonight," Boston's Antoine Walker said. "We just put the ball in his hands and let him do what he does best. He had his jump shot working tonight and that's why is one of the best scorers in this league."
Antoine Walker added 20 points, four rebounds and five assists for Boston, which remained tied with Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Behind Pierce, the Celtics erased a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Boston trailed 74-62 with 7:47 to play before closing the game on a 20-3 run.
Pierce sandwiched a driving layup between two 15-footers to spark the comeback. Then he hit three 19-foot jumpers in a row to put the Celtics on top 81-76. He also added a pair of free throws.
"The team showed tremendous confidence in me down the stretch, and I wanted to deliver," Pierce said. "It was a game we just couldn't lose."
Anthony Mason led the Heat with 16 points and scored the team's final three points all from the free-throw line. Brian Grant added 14 points for Miami, which dropped behind the New York Knicks and into the No. 4 playoff spot.
Mourning, playing his fourth game since returning from a kidney disease, had 11 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots. He looked closer to returning to his old form.
The 6-foot-10 center played 23 minutes. And with Mourning on the floor, the Heat outscored the Celtics by 18 points.
But Mourning was on the bench for Boston's final run. Pierce was 6-of-10 shooting in the fourth and 11-of-23 for the game.
Mason took just one shot in the fourth, as did Grant and Tim Hardaway.
"We should be at a stage with this team where we can close games," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "This is the fourth consecutive game where in the last six minutes we have had leads and we don't close. We got outscored 20-3 after that last timeout. Everyone was chest bumping, hooping and hollering. I think they thought the game was over."
Pistons 110, Bulls 83
Chicago Jerry Stackhouse scored an NBA season-high 57 points as Detroit won its third straight. Stackhouse was 21-for-36 from the field and 11-for-13 from the line in breaking Kelly Tripucka's team record of 56 points, set in 1984. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson scored 54 earlier this season. Stackhouse's career-best effort is the highest single-game performance since Shaquille O'Neal had 61 against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 6, 2000.
Lakers 96, Jazz 88
Salt Lake City Shaquille O'Neal scored 31 points and Robert Horry came off the bench for 20 to lead Los Angeles. Derek Fisher scored 17 and rookie Mike Penberthy had 10 as the Lakers' bench outscored the Utah reserves 38-19. Karl Malone led Utah with 31 points while John Stockton scored 19 and Donyell Marshall had 10. Kobe Bryant did not play for the Lakers. Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson decided his star shooter needed more time to rest a sore left foot that has put him on the bench for six of the last seven games.
Pacers 85, Suns 81
Indianapolis Jalen Rose and Travis Best each scored 18 points as Indiana snapped the Phoenix Suns' seven-game winning streak.
Nuggets 94, Trail Blazers 92
Denver Robert Pack, starting in place of suspended point guard Nick Van Exel, had a season-high 26 points as Denver slowed Portland's playoff push. Kevin Willis added 19 points and 18 rebounds.
Bucks 107, Kings 101
Sacramento, Calif. Sam Cassell scored six of his 33 points in the final 90 seconds as Milwaukee blew a 24-point lead but rallied to beat Sacramento. Ray Allen scored 20 points and Glenn Robinson had 18 points and 11 rebounds as Milwaukee ended the game on a 13-2 run.
Knicks 94, Magic 82
New York Marcus Camby had 23 points and 20 rebounds as New York won for the ninth time in 10 home games. The Knicks capitalized on the absence of Orlando's Tracy McGrady, who left the game with a strained muscle with 5:35 left in the first half.
Hornets 103, Nets 88
East Rutherford, N.J. Jamal Mashburn scored 31 points and P.J. Brown added 19 points and 12 rebounds as Charlotte beat New Jersey for the third time this season and for the 14th time in 17 games. Baron Davis added 17 points for the Hornets.
Raptors 100, 76ers 85
Toronto Vince Carter scored 26 points as Toronto won for the fifth time in six games and beat Philadelphia for the third time in four games this season. Alvin Williams added 14 points and 13 assists for the Raptors, who led by as many as 35 points.
Mavericks 109, Rockets 97
Houston Michael Finley scored 27 points and Dallas wrapped up its first playoff spot in 11 years. Juwan Howard added 23 for Dallas, which secured the playoff berth with the victory and Seattle's loss at San Antonio. Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 and Steve Nash 16 as the Mavs won their second straight game, fifth in their last six and 11th in 14.
Spurs 107, SuperSonics 89
San Antonio Tim Duncan had 30 points and 14 rebounds as San Antonio ended Seattle's four-game winning streak. The victory, combined with Philadelphia's loss at Toronto, gave the Spurs the NBA's best record at 52-22.