BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics have almost caught Cleveland for the top spot in Eastern Conference. Now they’re focused on passing the Cavaliers.

Thomas scored 30 points, including 20 in the second half, and Boston beat the Miami Heat 112-108 on Sunday night for its fourth straight victory.

The win moved Boston within percentage points of Cleveland for the No. 1 seed in the East. The Celtics have one more victory than the Cavs, but also one more loss. Boston (48-26) equaled its win total from last season.

Thomas said no one in a Celtics uniform was celebrating, though.

“It’s just a tie, though, so it’s not that cool,” he said. “Hopefully we can secure that spot and be No. 1. We’ve just got to control what we can control and take it game by game. We can’t really worry about what Cleveland’s doing or what other teams are doing.”

Jae Crowder added a season-high 25 points and six rebounds for the Celtics.

Tyler Johnson had 24 points and James Johnson scored 20 for the Heat, who are a half-game ahead of the Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East.

Hassan Whiteside finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds for Miami.

“I don’t think it was the offense that really got us, that (is) inhibiting us from winning games,” Tyler Johnson said. “I think it’s getting stops down the stretch. We scored 108 points, so that’s enough to get the job done.”

Boston led by 10 entering the final quarter before letting Miami back into the game with an 8-0 run.

James Johnson hit one of two free throws to get the Heat within two with less than a minute to play. Then the Celtics’ Marcus Smart got the benefit of a goaltending call on the second of his free-throw attempts to put Boston up four with 20.1 seconds left.

The Celtics trailed by five at halftime, but outscored the Heat 32-17 in the third quarter.

Boston Coach Brad Stevens was critical of his team’s defensive effort late in a win over Phoenix on Friday, when Devin Booker scored 70 points for the Suns.

At one point in the second quarter Sunday, Stevens again chastised his club’s performance on the defensive end as the Celtics fell into a 15-point hole.

They responded by going on a 25-15 run over the final 7:09 of the half. They also closed the game with several big defensive plays, including an emphatic block by Al Horford on Tyler Johnson in the waning seconds.

“This is what happens with competition,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s not only up to you. They have something to say about it as well. They just made some big, timely plays.”


CELTICS: Thomas had his 65th game with 20-plus points this season, tying him with Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook for the most in the NBA. Thomas also extended his franchise record to 48 consecutive games with a 3-pointer. … Avery Bradley returned after missing a game because of stomach flu. … Crowder had his ninth 20-point game of the season.

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