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Celtics Nab 1st Title Since '92

Associated Press
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page D07

Paul Pierce had 25 points and 11 rebounds and the visiting Boston Celtics celebrated their first Atlantic Division title in 13 years after a 103-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors last night.

The Celtics wrapped up their first division title since Larry Bird's final season in 1991-92 when Philadelphia lost to New Jersey just minutes before Boston finished off the Raptors.

The SuperSonics' Rashard Lewis slams home two of his 28 points as Seattle eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves from the playoff race. (Ann Heisenfelt -- AP)

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It's the 25th division crown for the Celtics, and it gives them the No. 3 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Celtics head to the postseason having won four straight and six of seven.

"We accomplished one goal, getting into the playoffs and now we've accomplished the second goal, winning the division," Pierce said.

Pierce scored Boston's final five points on free throws. He went 11 for 13 from the line. Raef LaFrentz added 18 points for the Celtics, who outrebounded the Raptors 41-33.

Jalen Rose had 31 points for the lottery-bound Raptors, who have won just four of their last 14 games.

Marcus Banks's two free throws gave Boston a 14-point lead -- their biggest of the game -- with 9 minutes 23 seconds left.

But Morris Peterson sparked an 11-0 run with consecutive layups as Toronto cut the lead to three with 6:26 remaining.

Antoine Walker's short jumper gave Boston a seven-point lead with 2:35 left, but Rose converted a three-point play and hit a jumper to cut the lead to two with 1:55 left. Pierce followed with two free throws, Walker blocked a shot on the other end and Pierce made 1 of 2 free throws to give Boston a 101-96 lead with 28 seconds left. Pierce added two more from the line with 22 seconds remaining.

HAWKS 139, KNICKS 135: Tyronn Lue scored eight of his 32 points in overtime to lead Atlanta over New York in the NBA's highest-scoring game this season.

Josh Smith scored 19 of his 21 points after halftime, and Josh Childress added 22 points and Boris Diaw had 20 for the Hawks, who won for the fourth time on the road this season.

Stephon Marbury had 31 points and nine assists before fouling out in overtime, and Jamal Crawford added 31 points for the Knicks, including a three-pointer in overtime that cut the lead to 137-135.

San Antonio and Golden State combined to score 270 points earlier this month in a game the Spurs won 136-134 in double overtime.

NETS 104, 76ERS 83: Vince Carter had 43 points, Jason Kidd registered his 67th career triple-double and New Jersey, at home, took control of its playoff destiny with a win over Philadelphia that prevented the 76ers from clinching a postseason berth.

Kidd finished with 11 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds as the Nets moved into a tie with eighth-place Cleveland (40-40), a game behind Philadelphia (41-39) in the race for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Each team has two games remaining.

HEAT 84, PACERS 80: Even with Shaquille O'Neal bruised and out of the game, host Miami ended its longest losing streak of the season -- and beat Indiana.

Eddie Jones scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Damon Jones added 16 points and all five Miami starters scored in double figures as the Heat knocked off the Pacers, ending a four-game losing skid and a 12-game regular season drought against Indiana.

Shaquille O'Neal scored 11 points in 17 minutes, leaving shortly before halftime with a bruised right thigh.

PISTONS 90, CAVALIERS 87: Detroit used a balanced attack in a win over slumping Cleveland, overcoming LeBron James's 37 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.

Cleveland has lost three straight and six of eight, and is in danger of finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference, behind New Jersey and Philadelphia. New Jersey holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland.

The Cavaliers needed a three-pointer to send the game into overtime, but James shot an air ball over Tayshaun Prince just before the buzzer from above the key. James then took off his jersey and walked off the court toward the locker room.

With a chance to tie it at 89, James shot an air ball from the baseline over Prince with about 20 seconds left.

MAVERICKS 114, LAKERS 112: Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points and eight rebounds, Michael Finley added 20 points, and visiting Dallas held off Los Angeles for its seventh straight victory and 14th in 16 games since Avery Johnson took over as coach.

The Lakers (34-46) also have two games left in one of their most dismal seasons. They have lost four straight, 17 of 19 and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1994 and just the fifth in franchise history. They finished with a 22-19 record at home -- their worst in 11 years.

SUPERSONICS 109, TIMBERWOLVES 94: Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis finally put Minnesota's playoff hopes to rest. Allen scored 34 points and Lewis added 28 to lead visiting Seattle to a victory, eliminating the Wolves from the Western Conference playoff race.

TRAIL BLAZERS 100, JAZZ 82: Ruben Patterson scored 23 points to lead Portland at home. Damon Stoudamire had 18 points, 12 assists and made four three-pointers, giving him a franchise record 180 this season.

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