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Backup boosts Celtics to crucial win

The Boston Celtics knew just where to look in the absence of Kenny Anderson. Erick Strickland was more than ready to come in and handle the point.

Strickland scored a season-high 23, including two 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter, to lead Boston to a 87-82 victory over the Heat on Monday night.

Strickland helped the Celtics pull away in the fourth quarter and secure a much-needed win.

"I just wanted to be ready and get my rhythm as quickly as possible," Strickland said. "I'm trying to stay consistent and get the extra shots."

Boston, which had lost three of four after winning seven in a row, moved 1{ games ahead of Milwaukee for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Miami lost for the third straight time and has dropped five of seven. The Heat, once a half-game out of the playoffs, fell four behind Indiana for the final spot.

The Heat's loss also clinched a playoff spot for New Jersey, which was idle.

"I don't care about the standings," Miami center Alonzo Mourning said. "My main concern is for us to start winning. If we start winning, the standings will take care of itself."

Anderson sat with a sprained ankle sustained against Detroit on Friday and will miss another four games while on the injured list. Tony Delk started in his place, but it was Strickland who filled the gap, scoring 10 in the final 2{ minutes.

Strickland's 3-pointer opened a 79-73 lead with 2:07 left, and he hit a drive inside the lane for an 81-78 lead with 1:01 left. After Jim Jackson pulled Miami within one, Strickland again made a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.

"That was a really big shot late in the game, a big swing," Strickland said. "We have a deep team, and you have to be ready. Kenny's injury was unexpected, so I had to come out and play with as much energy as I could. Kenny is a big part of what we do, especially with his leadership."

Eddie House missed a 3-pointer for the Heat, and Strickland hit two free throws with 16 seconds left.

SPURS: Reserve guard Terry Porter was placed on the injured list with a strained right calf. Stephen Jackson, who had been out with a sprained right thumb, was activated from the disabled list.

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