BOSTON — With much more to lose in potential injuries than gain with another victory, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat let their reserves decide the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Rest and recovery were of much greater importance as both teams looked ahead to the postseason and patched together lineups that hardly resembled last year’s second-round playoff series.
The result was sloppy at times, but turned into a relatively even matchup before the seldom-used Celtics rallied for a 78-66 win over the starless Heat on Tuesday night.
Sasha Pavlovic led Boston with a season-high 16 points, scoring 12 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away by shooting 50 percent (11 for 22) in the period and forcing Miami into eight of its season-high 25 turnovers.
“Well, someone had to win the game and we did, which was really nice,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “You know, these games are still important, probably for both teams.”
But not important enough to risk anybody’s playoff status.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were out for the Heat. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo didn’t play for the Celtics.
Rivers said Rondo and Garnett should be back in the lineup on Thursday when Boston hosts Milwaukee in the final game of the regular season. By rallying for a win Tuesday, the Celtics — locked into the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference as a division winner — can still get home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs against Atlanta with another victory on Thursday and a loss by Hawks. Atlanta heads into the season finale with a one-game lead but Boston won the season series.