Pierce Takes Over Late
Boston 85, Indiana 71
BOSTON, Dec. 14 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics resembled a postseason contender once again. The Indiana Pacers, on the other hand, looked lost without Ron Artest.
Pierce scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics posted an 85-71 victory over the struggling Pacers.
"It wasn't as sharp a game that we would like it to be," said Pierce, who collected seven rebounds and five assists. "But after losing two straight, somehow we just wanted to try to find a way to get a win, and that's what we're thinking right now."
The 71 points were the fewest allowed by Boston since an 89-65 win over Philadelphia on March 28, 2004.
Mark Blount scored 22 points, Kendrick Perkins grabbed eight rebounds and Ricky Davis dished out seven assists for the Celtics, who held the Pacers to just 33 percent (26-of-80) from the floor.
Although he was happy with his team's defensive intensity, Boston coach Doc Rivers felt his team could have played better.
"I told our guys that we have to expect more out of our team than that," Rivers said. "Obviously, I was happy we won the game and I was happy with our defense. I thought we had great defensive energy, but we have to play better than that on most nights."
With Artest and starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley inactive, Indiana lacked any offensive rhythm in its first game here since last May, when it won Game Seven of its first-round series by 27 points. After winning two straight games without Artest, the Pacers were held to a season low.
"Indiana was flat," Rivers said. "I was happy with the win but I honestly was not happy with the way we played."
Stephen Jackson scored 18 points, Jermaine O'Neal added 14 and 10 rebounds and rookie Sarunas Jasikevicius chipped in 11, but the trio combined to shoot just 26 percent (14-of-53).
One of the most mercurial players in the league, Artest's career has been marred by myriad problems off and on the court.
Artest's latest issue is a trade demand, which apparently will force Indiana to deal its disgruntled star despite his averages of 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and a league-leading 2.6 steals. The Pacers placed the forward on the inactive list Tuesday.
"We've already moved on because he said he didn't want to be here," Jackson said. "No one is dwelling on him coming back. We would definitely welcome him back, but the attitude of this team is we'll move on without him. We can't worry about what he would have done or what he could do for us."
Without Artest and Tinsley, who was sidelined with a strained quadriceps, the Pacers scored just 10 points in the second quarter and trailed at halftime, 47-31.
"We had some stretches where I thought we really had good shots and when we had good shots we couldn't get them to go, which didn't allow us to get anything going defensively," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "We weren't good enough tonight, and they were very good for the whole game. We had some runs, but by the time we got anything going it was too late."
A pair of consecutive 3-pointers by Fred Jones cut Indiana's deficit to 76-69 with 3:36 left, but the Pacers would get no closer.
Pierce scored seven of Boston's final nine points, as the Celtics yielded just one basket down the stretch to hold on.
"We backed off a little bit, they made a run, we made a run back and we just kept exchanging baskets," Davis said. "We got stops at the end there."
"Tonight, the biggest thing was we had 10 points in the second quarter," Jackson added. "Coming down the stretch, we made some plays to get to 10 points and under 10, but we couldn't get over the hump because we missed a lot of wide open shots. You have to give them credit tonight, they came to play."