BOSTON – Paul Pierce sank the big basket in the Celtics double-overtime win over the NBA champions. Then he learned that star point guard Rajon Rondo would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
“Everyone was really happy for the win,” Pierce said after Boston beat the Miami Heat 100-98 Sunday. “It brought a dark cloud in this room when you heard the news.”
When coach Doc Rivers told his players after the game, the joy of ending their six-game losing streak stopped, even if they had just outlasted the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Now the Celtics must try to keep winning without their leader, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee late in Friday night’s 123-112 win, also in double overtime, in Atlanta.
They won Sunday after Pierce’s 22-foot jumper with 31 seconds left gave them a 99-98 lead.
But making the playoffs got harder as the Celtics try to hang on to the eighth and final postseason spot in the conference with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Obviously, the Rondo news is pretty tough. I knew it before the game,” Rivers said. “I just didn’t think it was any time to tell any of our guys.”
Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Pierce added 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics.
Rondo’s injury “puts this team and the rest of the guys in a position to be ready to step up,” Pierce said.
Sunday’s win “was a perfect example,” he said. “We showed we are capable.”
LeBron James had 34 points for the Heat, whose winning streak stopped at four.
“As much as I’ve been a rival with Boston over the years, I never want to see anyone go down,” James said. “It’s terrible, not only for their team but for the league.”
Rivers did not mention Rondo’s injury in his meeting with reporters about an hour before the game, but Courtney Lee started in his place. Doctors decided to keep Rondo out of the game after he went through his normal pregame routine but complained of pain that he thought was in his hamstring. An MRI exam was done and team physician Dr. Brian McKeon learned the results during the game.
Lee had four points and two assists in 26 minutes for the Celtics.