Pierce Finishes Strong, Celtics End Road Skid
Boston 103, Utah 83
SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 21 (Ticker) -- When Paul Pierce picked up his fourth foul seconds into the third quarter, the Utah Jazz may have had thoughts of building on their lead. Pierce had other ideas.
Pierce stayed in the game after the whistle and proceeded to score 17 of his 30 points in the period, helping the Boston Celtics snap a seven-game road losing streak with a 103-83 victory over the Jazz.
"(Heck) of a win for us," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Everybody seemed like they answered the bell when we needed them to. Our best player (Pierce) caught fire. We put him in different areas to score, and that was big for us."
Boston got within 47-43 at the break thanks to 10 consecutive points from Delonte West in the final two minutes of the half. West's 22 points were one short of his career high.
"I thought we won the game at the end of the second quarter," Rivers said. "Delonte's offensive explosion got us back in the game, cut it to four, and gave us hope. That's something we needed. When Wally went down, you could see everybody's heads went down a little bit."
Pierce was able to shake off the foul trouble to put forth a masterful performance in the third. He was whistled for the infraction with 11:12 left and Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko made the ensuing free throws to make it 49-45.
Pierce's 3-pointer moments later gave the Celtics their first lead at 54-53 and started a personal run of nine straight points. In the closing minutes of the period, Pierce hit four straight free throws and assisted on West's 3-pointer that gave the visitors a 72-63 lead.
Despite the sharpshooting, Pierce focused on the other side of the ball as a major factor in Boston's surge.
"I think it was pretty much our defense (in the second half)," Pierce said. "Once we got in a zone, we started bothering them a lot and took away a lot of the things they were doing in the first half. We rebounded and we ran and we were able to take the lead."
West's 3-pointer, one of a career-high four in just five attempts, was part of a 19-4 run over the final five minutes of the third as Boston completed a 30-point turnaround over a span of 14-plus minutes. The Celtics' offense nearly was perfect in the third, shooting 92 percent (12-of-13) en route to 37 points.
"We got it going. I know I had it and I was feeling good," said Pierce, who has scored at least 30 points in six straight games. "I think the guys were really feeding off of what I was doing offensively. We were able to get layups and get to the free throw line, we mixed it up and took good shots, and that's what gave us the lead."
Utah never mounted any serious charge in the fourth quarter in suffering its fourth straight loss in the series and its third straight overall.
"We couldn't stop Pierce and we couldn't execute our offense," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We didn't know if they were in a zone, man-to-man or what. (The Celtics) just waxed our ears back pretty good."
West added seven rebounds and seven assists and Michael Olowokandi, who saw extra playing time after Raef LaFrentz got into foul trouble, chipped in 12 points and 11 boards in his best effort since joining the Celtics in a seven-player trade with Minnesota in January.
"I was definitely thankful for the opportunity to go out there. After the game, I jokingly thanked Raef," Olowokandi said. "Collectively, it was a good team effort. We played our zone really well, and Delonte and Paul definitely stepped up. It was one of those different wins that feels really good because everybody contributed and everybody played well."
Szczerbiak was walking on his left leg after the game, but his status remains uncertain for Wednesday's game at Phoenix.
Kirilenko led the Jazz with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, the lone bright spot in a 34 percent (25-of-74) shooting effort for the hosts. Boston shot 58 percent (36-of-62) from the floor, including 8-of-12 from beyond the arc.