Sixers Can't Win Against Boston

The 76ers might be in big trouble in a playoff series with Boston if Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are back.

Paul Pierce hit the winning jumper, scored 31 points and hindered Philadelphia's shot at the Eastern Conference's sixth seed in Boston's 100-98 win over the Sixers on Tuesday night.

Garnett missed the missed the meaningless game for Boston to rest his strained knee and Allen served a one-game suspension. Pierce made seven 3-pointers to overcome the absence of the two All-Stars, which had to make the Sixers wonder how they could win a first-round series against a loaded and focused Celtics team.

The Celtics already had the second seed in the East locked up and could face the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers, though, could move up a spot to sixth and play Orlando if they win Wednesday night in Cleveland and the Knicks beat Chicago.

The Cavaliers, however, are 39-1 at home and are attempting to match the best home record in NBA history. The Sixers are only 16-24 on the road and have lost six straight games.

Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 25 points and Thaddeus Young had 18.

Young returned after missing seven games with an ankle injury and showed he was back in full form when he used a spin move in the paint for a quick basket to open the game. The rest of the Sixers still have some work to do.

Even with Allen and Garnett out, and Pierce on the bench most of the fourth period, the Celtics rallied from an 11-point hole to take the lead late in the quarter. The lead flip-flopped over several possessions until Pierce buried a step-back 17-footer to make it 99-98 with 2 minutes left.

Young missed one of two free throws, then misfired a 3-pointer that could have put the Sixers up and bolstered their shot for the sixth seed.

With one last attempt for the win, Iguodala tried to drive past Pierce and tossed up a floater in traffic that went nowhere.

Tony Allen scored 18 points in his first start of the year for the Celtics. Glen Davis had 15 points.

Allen was suspended one game without pay for elbowing Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao in the groin. Allen likely would have sat out the Sixers game anyway, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it was doubtful Allen or Pierce would play in Wednesday's finale against Washington.

The Sixers will open in Orlando or Boston and will have a tough road either way. Still, watching Boston's reserves grab the lead from Philly's starters can't be much of a confidence boost if they meet again next week.

The Sixers went on a 22-5 run in the first half and led 58-50 at the break.

The Celtics chipped away and Stephon Marbury's first shot of the game was a 3-pointer midway through the fourth that pulled the Celtics within three.

Marbury scooped a loose ball rebound and went the length of the court before dishing to Mikki Moore for a layup that made it 84-83. Allen converted the three-point play to give the Celtics an 86-84 lead with 9:20 left and they never trailed by more than four again.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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