BOSTON The Boston Celtics are in the playoffs. The Detroit Pistons aren't far behind.
Boston became the first NBA team to clinch a postseason berth, getting a season-high 31 points from Kevin Garnett on Wednesday night to earn a bruising 90-78 victory over Detroit, its closest competitor in the Eastern Conference.
"That's not what we want," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "That's nice, but last year it would have been a parade."
The Celtics missed the playoffs the last two seasons, but the arrival of Garnett and Ray Allen has raised expectations for the NBA's most-decorated franchise. So even though Wednesday's victory ended their playoff drought, it was more important because it gave them a 2-1 victory in the season series with Detroit.
"It was good to beat them in the regular season and win the series, but this is a team we're probably going to see in the playoffs," said Paul Pierce, who scored 15 points. "They'll be a better team by then."
But if the Pistons (44-17) tie the Celtics (47-12) in the standings and meet them in the playoffs, Boston would have the home-court advantage. That could be crucial, considering the way the teams banged into each other the first three times they played this season.
"Any time you play another elite team it will be a playoff atmosphere. All three felt like that," said Chauncey Billups, who scored 23 points, going 14-of-15 from the line. "It was very physical. That's what we like to do. That's great basketball and all games should be like that."
The idea gave Rivers pause.
"I don't want to think about that," he said. "But the way I look at it is if we do see them again, it's only a good thing."
Kendrick Perkins had a career-high 20 rebounds to go with his 10 points, and Rajon Rondo had 16 points to help Boston win its sixth consecutive game."All these games count," said Garnett, who scored five straight points after the Pistons tied it 69-69 in the fourth quarter. "We are trying to get home-court advantage. ... All these games are huge for us."
CAVALIERS 119, KNICKS 105: At New York, LeBron James had 50 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers.James shot 16-of-30 from the field, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, in his second 50-point game this season. The NBA's scoring leader scored 45 points in a victory over the Knicks in Cleveland on Nov. 2. He fell two points shy of Kobe Bryant, who had a 52-point game on Sunday against Dallas, the highest in the league this season.
RAPTORS 108, HEAT 83: At Miami, Rasho Nesterovic had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Jamario Moon added 14 points and Toronto embarrassed Miami for the second time this season to snap a three-game skid. Anthony Parker and Andrea Bargnani each scored 12 points for the Raptors, but Bargnani's night will be best remembered by a scary collision with Miami's Alexander Johnson that knocked the 2006 No. 1 overall pick out of the game early in the third quarter.
BOBCATS 118, WARRIORS 109: At Charlotte, N.C., Jason Richardson scored 42 points against his former team, and Charlotte snapped Golden State's four-game winning streak. Richardson, who spent six seasons with the Warriors before being traded on draft night, was two points shy of his career high. He hit 15 of 32 shots and added seven rebounds to help the Bobcats to their first three-game winning streak of the season.
MAGIC 122, WIZARDS 92: At Washington, Dwight Howard had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Orlando made an emphatic statement in a possible playoff preview by dominating Washington.
ROCKETS 117, PACERS 99: At Houston, Tracy McGrady scored 25 points and Houston got its franchise-record 16th straight win, making the Rockets 4-0 since losing Yao Ming for the season to injury. The Rockets have won 20 of their last 21, and own the longest win streak in the NBA this season.
HORNETS 116, HAWKS 101: At New Orleans, Chris Paul had 23 points and 18 assists, and New Orleans tied a franchise record with 15 3-pointers in its victory over Atlanta. Peja Stojakovic made six 3-pointers and led all scorers with 29 points to help the Hornets to their second straight victory and fourth in five games. Paul and reserve guard Jannero Pargo each made three 3-pointers, and Morris Peterson and rookie Julian Wright each made one.
GRIZZLIES 100, NETS 93: At Memphis, Tenn., Hakim Warrick scored a season-high 25 points and Memphis snapped a nine-game losing streak by pulling away in the fourth quarter.
BUCKS 118, SUPERSONICS 106: At Milwaukee, Charlie Villanueva had 32 points and 11 rebounds as Milwaukee scored a season-high 118 points in beating Seattle. Andrew Bogut added 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for Milwaukee.
NUGGETS 126, SUNS 113: At Denver, Carmelo Anthony crashed the boards as hard as he worked for open looks at the basket, grabbing 13 rebounds and scoring 30 points.