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Celtics grab crucial win over Cavaliers

PAUL Pierce scored 29 points and added nine assists as the Boston Celtics pulled into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with a 105-94 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Playing without injured defensive leader Kevin Garnett for the seventh consecutive game, the Celtics limited All Star LeBron James to 21 points.

"This is a big win - both teams are playing for first place in the East and home-court advantage (in the playoffs)," Pierce told reporters. "They were physical, but we played our game and limited our turnovers."

Boston forward Leon Powe had a season-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Ray Allen added 17 points.

The Cavaliers (48-13) still hold a better winning percentage than the Celtics (49-14) despite dropping their first game in five.

In other National Basketball Association games, it was: Rockets 116, Suns 112; Lakers 110, Timberwolves 90; Jazz 97, Nuggets 91; Magic 105, Nets 102; Bobcats 98, Hawks 91; Bulls 117, Bucks 102; Heat 108, Raptors 102; Spurs 100, Wizards 78; and Pistons 108, Warriors 91,

In Boston, Mo Williams led the way for Cleveland with 26 points while James finished 5-for-15 shooting from the field. He spent the final minutes on the bench after the Cavaliers couldn't narrow a double-digit deficit.

The game was knotted at 57-57 with 6:56 remaining in the third before the Celtics closed the quarter with a 21-12 run to take a 78-69 advantage.

"No (Kevin Garnett) or with KG they are going to be a great team because they buy into the system," James said.

In a rematch of last season's hard-fought seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals series, things became testy in the third quarter. Boston forward Glen Davis was ejected after committing a foul on Anderson Varejao and players had to be separated.

The Celtics took a 2-1 lead in the head-to-head record with one game between them remaining this season.

Should the teams finish level in win-loss record after the regular season, head-to-head record would be used to determine home court and other advantages in the playoffs.


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