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Luke Ridnour’s basket with 1:39 to go stopped the run and Jefferson’s follow of a missed shot made it 104-101 with 51 seconds left.

Then Jefferson’s layup cut the lead to one point with 29 seconds to play.

With the 24-second clock about to expire, Sullinger missed a 3-pointer, but Pressey tipped the rebound to Brandon Bass. The Bobcats fouled him and Boston took the ball out from the side. Sullinger was fouled immediately when he took the inbounds pass.

“That’s just one of the winning plays that coach (Brad) Stevens talks about,” Pressey said of his tip, “diving for a loose ball, boxing out, taking the charge, getting offensive rebounds.”

The Bobcats didn’t do enough of that.

“We just didn’t put much into the game,” Clifford said.

Boston led 57-55 at halftime and scored the last 12 points of the third quarter, turning a 75-72 deficit into an 84-75 lead. Bass had five points and Green added four during the rally.

The Celtics stretched that to 90-77 before the Bobcats came back with a 10-point run to cut the lead to three. Bradley’s basket stopped the surge, but Charlotte tied it at 92 with 5:13 to go on a layup by Jefferson and a 3-pointer by Gerald Henderson.

But two days after wasting a nine-point lead with 5:44 left and losing to Atlanta 105-97, the Celtics held on.

“We learned our lesson,” Sullinger said. “We stayed poised.”

NOTES: Boston F Kris Humphries returned after missing two games with a sore right knee. … Sullinger suffered a mild left ankle sprain in the third quarter and returned in the fourth. … Pressey’s previous high was 11 assists. … Jefferson is 1-12 in his career against the Celtics. He has a double-double in 10 of his past 12 games.