BOSTON — The Celtics may not be going to the postseason this year. Still, that won't stop them from playing the role of spoiler when they can.
The C's finished the fourth quarter strong on Wednesday in knocking off the two-time NBA champion Miami Heat, 101-96, snapping a five-game losing streak in the process.
With the score tied at 94-94 late in the fourth, Boston (23-46) closed out the game with a 7-2 spurt.
For the Heat (46-20), who played without LeBron James (back spasms), it continued a recent trend: They've lost six of their last nine games. And the loss dealt yet another blow to Miami's chances of catching Indiana for the best record in the East and, with that, home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Avery Bradley led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Bradley was doing his best Ray Allen impression for most of the game, finishing with a career-high six 3-pointers.
Boston also got a strong game from Rajon Rondo, who finished a point shy of his first triple-double of the season, with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists.
The strong finish was stark contrast to the Celtics' struggles in the first quarter.
Boston had no answer to start the game for Miami's Udonis Haslem, a seldom-used big man this season who seemed to be in midseason form early on. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter, which ended with Miami ahead, 34-22.
It was for the most part a relatively emotion-free game, with the only real buzz in the building being a chorus of boos when Allen, a former Celtic, entered the game. Allen, an unrestricted free agent at the time, signed a two-year deal with the Heat in 2012.
Miami was in cruise control most of the second quarter, although the Celtics once again showed the kind of fight that, for fans, has made all the losing this season more palatable.
Boston came within three points (49-46) after Chris Bosh was whistled for goaltending a Rondo lay-up. However, the Heat responded with a 4-0 spurt and led 59-53 at the half.
Boston opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run and went ahead 63-61. It was the Celtics' first lead since Bradley scored the game's first basket. The Celtics took their biggest lead of the night on a 3-pointer by Bradley that put them ahead, 76-72.