NBA champions Boston Celtics secured a two-game lead in the chase for Eastern Conference playoff seeding as they downed Miami Heat 105-98.
|'No excuses': Pierce [GALLO/GETTY]
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined in a strong fourth quarter to help the Celtics post their sixth successive victory and 60th of the year.
Pierce scored nine of his 28 points and Allen had seven of his 21 in the final seven minutes.
The win gives Celtics the edge over the Orlando Magic for the second seed in the Eastern Conference with three games remaining.
"It takes a great amount of focus (to win 60)," Allen said.
"We have a bunch of selfless individuals and regardless of who was in there everybody focused on their job and what they needed to do to make this team better."
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 31 points and nine assists, while rookie Michael Beasley scored 23 points and 13 rebounds in a losing effort.
Despite the loss, Miami retained the fifth-seed position in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams entered the game missing several injured players.
Boston's Kevin Garnett missed his 19th game in the last 23 while trying to recover from a knee injury before the post-season starts and power forward Leon Powe is still out with knee condition.
Miami returned second-year guard Daequan Cook, who missed the team's last game with a sore shoulder, but forward Udonis Haslem is out for the rest of the regular season with a thumb injury.
Pierce tallied 21 second-half points to help settle a tight game.
He made two free-throws to break a 95-95 tie with 1:37 left and, after a jumper by Glen Davis, added two more to give the Celtics a 101-95 lead with 32 seconds to go.
Davis finished with 22 points and eight rebounds while Pierce added eight rebounds to keep Boston in top form.
"We're a team that really doesn't make excuses," said Pierce.
"We feel like this is what we are supposed to do regardless of our injuries and the guys we throw out there."