Pierce’s Late 3-Pointer Lifts Celtics
Boston 99, Indiana 98
BOSTON, March 3 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce had to be glad the bank was open.
Pierce banked in a 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining as the Boston Celtics overcame some poor free throw shooting for a 99-98 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Pierce came through with his biggest shot in the final minute, banking in a shot from the top of the key over the outstretched arm of Stephen Jackson to snap a 96-96 tie.
"He stepped back and I knew I was going to take the shot," Pierce said. "I knew I had to get it up a little higher because Stephen Jackson really contested it really well. I got it up a little higher and banked it in."
Pierce made 13-of-25 shots but struggled at the line, going just 3-of-8. Boston was just 14-of-25 from the stripe overall.
After his second 3-pointer of the game went down, Pierce turned to the crowd and puts in palms in the air with a look of disbelief on his face.
"I remember when Michael (Jordan) was hitting all those threes against Portland," said Pierce, who was referring to Jordan's record-setting six 3-pointers in the first half of Game One of the 1992 NBA Finals. "I just wanted to do that."
After Fred Jones scored on a drive with 35 seconds left to pull the Pacers within 99-98, Pierce missed at the other end. Rookie Orien Greene corralled the offensive rebound and was fouled but was unable to convert either of his free throws, giving the Pacers a final chance.
Following a timeout, the Pacers went to Jackson, whose jumper from the left elbow bounced off the back of the rim as time expired.
"That was the shot we wanted," Jackson said. "It felt good. When it left my hands I thought it was going in. Things just didn't go our way tonight."
Delonte West added 17 points and seven assists and Raef LaFrentz collected 11, seven and 11 rebounds for the Celtics, who won for the third time in four games.
The Pacers built a 70-58 lead with 7:20 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Jackson, who scored 20 points. But the Celtics rallied behind Pierce and West.
Pierce scored nine points and West provided energy with eight as the Celtics closed the quarter on a 23-8 surge to take an 81-78 lead entering the final period.
"We had them on the ropes and on their heels once we got up by 12," said Pacers guard Anthony Johnson, who had nine points and seven assists. "You could tell they were a little shaken. All we had to do was play tough for another three, four minutes and things would have probably swayed our way."
"I thought our first half was as soft defensively as we'd been all year," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who watched the Pacers shoot 54 percent (20-of-37) in the opening half. "We started the third quarter the same way but then our bench picked us up. Even though (our bench) was outscored, I thought they were the reason we won the game."
Greene was one of the bench players who provided a spark. He had five points, three assists, three assists and a steal in 25 minutes overall.
Peja Stojakovic scored 24 points - none in the fourth quarter - and Jones added 16 for the Pacers, who shot 51.5 percent (35-of-68).
"We have no one to blame but ourselves," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "You play a lousy third quarter and give up a bunch of turnovers, you're going to tempt fate with that kind of play over a 12-minute period."
Stojakovic scored 14 points in the third quarter but took just one shot in the final period.