Pierce Erupts as Celtics Top Trail Blazers
Boston 102, Portland 96
PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 24 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce again gave the Portland Trail Blazers a taste of what he has been giving the rest of the NBA this month.
Pierce reached the 30-point plateau for the eighth time in 10 February games, scoring 37 points as the Boston Celtics posted their fourth win in six games, a 102-92 triumph over the reeling Trail Blazers.
"It doesn't matter who it's against, rather that it's just being the time of year to turn it up," said Pierce, who shot 14-of-25 from the floor. "Being the second half of the season, we're trying to make a playoff push and get into contention. I'm just wanting to pick up my play and get better as the season goes along."
Losers of eight of their last nine contests, the Trail Blazers held a 52-50 lead at the break behind the efforts of teenage rookie Martell Webster, who scored 17 of his season-high 24 points in the first half.
"I ran the floor hard and just tried to leave it all out on the court," said Webster, who connected on 9-of-17 shots. "My teammates were finding me, I was wide open for shots and they were going in."
However, Pierce almost singlehandedly got the Celtics back in front as he scored 10 points during an 11-3 burst to open the third quarter, including a 3-pointer with 9:56 remaining in the period that gave Boston a 57-54 lead that it never relinquished.
Portland never got closer than three points in the final period. The Blazers got within 93-90 on a dunk by Darius Miles, who scored 16 points, but Pierce's aggression sealed the win.
After drawing a foul and connecting on two free throws with 2:38 left, Pierce hit a remarkable reverse layup with 1:59 to go. He answered a driving layup by Miles with one of his own as the shot clock was winding down, making it 99-92 with 39 seconds to play.
"We had a pick-and-roll and I saw the lane open up so I just wanted to be aggressive with it," Pierce said. "My game is to be aggressive, so when it was there, I wanted to make sure and finish hard."
"He took over the game with his drives to the basket in the fourth quarter," Celtics forward Wally Szczerbiak said. "He puts so much pressure on the defense, doesn't settle for jumpers. When the double-team comes, he finds the open players, making it easier on him in the long run."
Szczerbiak hit three free throws in the final 11 seconds and scored 25 points and rookie Ryan Gomes collected 13 points and a season-best 17 rebounds for Boston, which has won two of the first three games of its four-game West Coast trip.
"We had a number of guys step up tonight - Ryan Gomes to be particular," Pierce said. "For a guy to be that size and go out there and do what he did, it was just a phenomenal game for him."
Gomes has started the last six games for the Celtics and has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
"Ryan has been great for us and he's just a terror on the backboard," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Not only did we need his glass work but we needed his quickness. Without Ryan Gomes, we don't win this game tonight."
"Hopefully it can happen all the time," Gomes said. "I know a lot of guys are taller so I try and use my quickness and get a body on someone right away. I got a few boards early and just wanted to keep attacking the rim."
Portland dressed only nine players due to a two-game suspension of guard Sebastian Telfair, injuries to centers Joel Przybilla (knee tendinitis) and Theo Ratliff (sprained ankle) and the recent trades to acquire Voshon Lenard and Brian Skinner, who both attended the game in street clothes.
"I told the team before the game that we're not giving up and we're not giving in," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "I was really pleased with our effort and to see that the fans haven't given up on this young group of guys."