BOSTON — The word came shortly before tipoff: LeBron James wouldn’t be playing.
Good news for Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens. But not as good as the news his team delivered down the stretch.
Jeff Green’s 3-pointer broke a 94-94 tie with 2:32 left Wednesday night and Rajon Rondo hit two running baseline shots in the last two minutes as the Celtics broke a five-game losing streak with a 101-96 victory against the Miami Heat.
Stevens had prepared to face James, who scored 43 points in a 100-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers the previous night. But when he learned that James would sit out with back spasms, “you just move on to what’s next,” he said.
What came next for the Celtics was a poor first quarter in which they made 9 of 27 shots, a better second quarter and a second half in which they outscored the Heat, 48-37.
“We were down 12” after the first quarter, Stevens said. “And then we hit 60 percent of our shots the rest of the way and that’s why we won.”
That and the Heat’s second-half shooting problems. They sank 40 percent of their attempts in that half after hitting 56.5 percent. In the second half, Chris Bosh made 1 of 6 shots and Dwyane Wade hit 2 of 9.
“I was just off,” Wade said as James sat in the opposite corner of the locker room dressed in jeans, a gray T-shirt and dark green ski cap while eating pasta.
“I had opportunities,” Wade said with a smile. “I just couldn’t go my normal 60 percent shooting self.”
Rondo made his shots when the Celtics needed them, continuing to regain his skills since returning Jan. 17, almost a year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
“That’s the most frustrating part of my game that hasn’t come back,” he said of sinking floaters near the basket. “I expected it to be there. I made two tonight and have to continue to work on it.”
He finished with nine points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points, and career highs of six 3-pointers and nine 3-point attempts. Brandon Bass added 18 points.
“I just have that confidence in my shot,” Bradley said. “We didn’t only execute at the end of this game but we played great defense.”
The Heat, who had won their previous two games after losing 5 of 6, were led by Wade with 17 points, Chris Andersen with 16, and Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem with 14 each.
“We aren’t used to playing so unstable,” Bosh said. “We need to pick it up.”
BULLS 102, 76ERS 94: D.J. Augustin scored 20 points, and Taj Gibson had 19 points and 13 rebounds as visiting Chicago handed Philadelphia its 22nd straight loss.
NETS 104, BOBCATS 99: Deron Williams scored 23 points, Joe Johnson added 20 and Brooklyn overcame a late deficit to win its 10th straight at home.
GRIZZLIES 96, JAZZ 86: Zach Randolph scored 21 points, Marc Gasol added 20 and Memphis won at home to maintain its hold on a Western Conference playoff spot.
RAPTORS 107, PELICANS 100: DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points, Greivis Vasquez victimized his former team with six points in the last two minutes, and Toronto won at New Orleans.
KNICKS 92, PACERS 86: Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and New York opened the Phil Jackson era by winning at home for its season-high seventh straight victory.
TIMBERWOLVES 123, MAVERICKS 122: Kevin Love scored 35 points, including the go-ahead basket in overtime, Ricky Rubio had a triple-double and Minnesota blew several leads before hanging on at Dallas.
NUGGETS 118, PISTONS 109: Aaron Brooks had 27 points and a career-high 17 assists to lead Denver at home for its fourth win in five games.
Sam Lacey, a former NBA All-Star center who spent most of his 13-year career with the Kansas City Kings, died at 66.