Boston’s Brandon Bass (30) blocks a shot by Philadelphia’s Elton Brand in the first half in Boston on Sunday.
BOSTON — Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Rajon Rondo dished out double-digit assists for his 17th consecutive game, finishing with 15 to help lead the Boston Celtics to a 103-79 win over the struggling Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.
Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley each added 18 points, and Paul Pierce had 17 as the Celtics won for the seventh time in nine games, improving their Atlantic Division lead to three games over both the 76ers and New York Knicks.
Nikola Vucevic led Philadelphia with 14 points and Andre Iguodala had 13. The 76ers have dropped 10 of 14, falling out of first in the Atlantic and forced to compete for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with the Knicks for seventh place, one game ahead of Milwaukee.
Coming off a double-digit win at Indiana on Saturday night, the Celtics broke this one open early in the second quarter.
Boston led 25-22 after one and outscored the 76ers 20-4 to start the second, pulling to a 45-26 lead on Bradley’s runner in the lane. Ray Allen, coming off the bench for the third straight game, ignited the spree with eight points. His 3-pointer from the right wing gave Boston its first double-digit advantage (34-24) 3:04 into the quarter.
The Celtics held Philadelphia to 27.3 percent shooting in the second quarter (6 of 22). The 76ers missed 12 of their first 13 shots.
Philadelphia entered the game with the league’s best scoring defense, but the Celtics had things pretty easy in the opening half, getting open looks and numerous drives into the lane.
Boston led 50-36 at halftime, shooting 57.6 percent (19 of 33) in the opening 24 minutes.
The Celtics then turned it into a rout with an 18-4 run coming out of the break, pushing the lead to 68-40 on Bradley’s 3 from the right wing. Garnett scored eight of Boston’s first 13 points, driving for a few easy buckets off Rondo’s feeds.
The Celtics led 84-63 after three quarters.
Philadelphia made a run early in the final quarter, closing to 86-70 on Lou Williams’ breakaway layup, but Sasha Pavlovic hit a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 91-72 lead and they were never tested the rest of the way.
NOTES: The 76ers, who fell to 10-15 on the road, play eight of their final 10 games away from home. ... Boston travels to Miami for a Tuesday night matchup against the Heat, a little over a week after blowing them out, 91-72, at home. ... The Celtics improved to 20-9 at TD Garden.
Heats 98, Pistons 75
MIAMI — LeBron James scored 26 points, Chris Bosh finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, and the Miami Heat steadily pulled away to beat the Detroit Pistons 98-75 on Sunday night.
James Jones scored 18 on 6-for-8 shooting from 3-point range for Miami, which played without Dwyane Wade for the 11th time this season. Wade sat out with right ankle soreness, which the team said was caused by an awkward landing on a missed dunk attempt against Memphis on Friday night.
The Heat are now 10-1 when Wade is sidelined this season, and are 18-1 in their last 19 home games.
Detroit rookie Brandon Knight, playing as a pro in the city where he was born for the first time, scored 16 for the Pistons. Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey added 11 apiece for Detroit.
Knicks 100, Bulls 99
NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 43 points, making the go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left in overtime as the New York Knicks spoiled a rusty Derrick Rose’s return to the lineup and beat the Chicago Bulls 100-99 on Sunday.
Rose scored 29 points after missing the previous 12 games with a strained right groin, but he shot only 8 of 26 from the field and missed a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left in regulation and the Bulls ahead by three.
Anthony made a 3-pointer eight seconds later to tie it.MORE IN Sports Wire
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