SAN ANTONIO - The Boston Celtics finally got a big win and their big man back.
And the San Antonio Spurs, at this dismal rate, may give first place in the West away.
Rajon Rondo had 22 points and 14 assists, center Jermaine O’Neal returned from knee surgery, and the Celtics ended a miserable March by not slipping further from first in the East, beating the slumping Spurs, 107-97, on Thursday night.
Paul Pierce added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett scored 20. The Celtics won for just the second time in five games and, ending the month at 9-7, moved within two games of Chicago for the No. 1 playoff seed with eight games to go.
“This is a good place to try and gather some momentum,” Pierce said. “You talk about the team with the best record. What better place to get back on track than here?”
Yet these days, San Antonio’s luster isn’t what it used to be.
The Spurs lost their fifth straight — their longest skid all season — and the timing couldn’t be worse. San Antonio has seven games left but is in danger of falling out of first place after comfortably being No. 1 in the West all season.
San Antonio’s woes have renewed hopes the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas have of taking the top spot. The Lakers were 3 games back and hosted the Mavericks — who were 3 games behind the Spurs — later Thursday night.
“Of course we want to be No. 1. We don’t want to give it way just because we like being underdogs,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “We want to win it. We put ourselves in an unbelievable situation.”
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23 points. Tim Duncan returned after missing the last four games with a sprained ankle and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.DATELINE —