The struggling Boston Celtics came away with a gutsy NBA win after finding out injured All-Star guard Rajon Rondo would be lost for the remainder of the season.
Paul Pierce hit the go-ahead jumper with 31 seconds left in the second overtime, carrying the Celtics to a 100-98 victory over the visiting Miami Heat on Sunday.
The Celtics stopped a season-high six-game slide and snapped the four-game success of the defending NBA Champions after learning Rondo will undergo season-ending surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, although no date has been announced yet.
The injury was originally diagnosed as a hyper-extended knee suffered in the Celtics’ 123-112 double overtime loss to Atlanta on Friday, but tests on Sunday showed the tear.
“It’s just like you want to celebrate the win, but you feel for your teammate or leader – a guy who, pretty much, as he goes, we go and he’s going to be out for the year,” said Pierce, who posted a triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The Celtics received the devastating news from Rondo, who came into the locker room during the game.
“It’s tough on everybody,” said Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett, who finished with a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s become the heart and soul of this team. Now we want to be there for our young brother in his time of need.”
Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in 38 contests this season. He was also voted an Eastern Conference starter for next month’s All-Star Game.
LeBron James led Miami with 34 points with 16 rebounds and seven assists. Dwyane Wade scored 17, while Chris Bosh finished with 16 and 16 boards.
“You never want to see anyone go down with any kind of injury, especially a season-ending injury. So it’s very unfortunate and it sucks,” Wade said of Rondo’s loss.
“He’s a great player and he really is the leader of this team and, obviously, guys are going to have to step up.”
Ray Allen netted 21 points in his first return to Boston since signing with Miami in the off-season following five seasons on the famed parquet floor.
“Today was definitely a weird feeling for me,” Allen said.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Lakers have upset Oklahoma City 105-96, with Kobe Bryant starring with 21 points.
Carmelo Anthony matched a franchise-record with nine triples en route to 42 points as New York Knicks beat Atlanta 106-104.
New Orleans Hornets were too good for Memphis 91-83, Detroit pipped Orlando 104-102, Dallas defeated Phoenix 110-95 and in the late game LA Clippers took care of Portland 96-83.
Blake Griffin had 23 points and nine assists, as the Clippers snapped a four-game slide, after salvaging the home-and-home series with the visiting Trail Blazers.