BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Celtics won the battle of the NBA’s best on Wednesday with a thrilling 105-103 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Ray Allen scored a game-high 31 points for the Celtics, who led 105-96 with less than a minute left but needed a Paul Pierce block as time expired to fend off the charging Spurs.
San Antonio ran off seven successive points in the final seconds to pull within two but Manu Ginobili’s 24-footer was blocked by Pierce.
“You knew it was going to be a nip-tuck game pretty much all night,” Pierce told reporters after scoring 18 points. “You got two heavyweights battling and it was fun to be a part of it. I‘m just glad we won.”
Boston had a chance to clinch the game with eight seconds left but Allen missed two free throws. It was a pair of rare misses for Allen, who made 13 of 16 field goal attempts for the game.
Ginobili finished with a team-high 24 points for the Spurs (29-6), who lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
Playing in his third game back from injury, point guard Rajon Rondo recorded his 11th career triple-double with 12 points, 22 assists and 10 rebounds to help Boston (27-7) win their third game in a row.
The NBA leader in assists per game, Rondo’s sizzling performance included a season-high six steals. He ignited the team to 61 percent shooting from the field.
Glen Davis added 23 points while starting in place of the injured Kevin Garnett who suffered a leg injury December 29 and is expected to miss at least another week.
With the game tightly contested through the first three quarters, the Celtics used a 9-0 run to seize control in the final minute before San Antonio answered.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker had 18 points each for San Antonio, who still owns the best record in the NBA.
“We’re very hard on ourselves. We’re not satisfied with where we are and honestly, I don’t care what our record is,” Duncan said. “We’re definitely not satisfied with where we are at defensively right now.”
The Spurs were coming off a 128-115 loss to the New York Knicks a night earlier.
Editing by Peter Rutherford