Pierce, West Lead Celtics Past Raptors
Boston 110, Toronto 96
BOSTON, March 22 (Ticker) -- Star swingman Paul Pierce kept the Boston Celtics' playoff dreams alive.
Pierce scored 32 points and Delonte West contributed 21 to help the Celtics to a 110-96 victory over the Toronto Raptors, who wasted 31 points from Mike James.
"I just wanted to make sure I was aggressive from the start of the game," said Pierce, who scored 14 points in the first quarter. "Usually when I'm agressive like that, it loosens things up for other guys."
The Celtics held a four-point edge at the start of the fourth quarter before rookie Ryan Gomes scored six straight points to help them build an 87-79 bulge with nine minutes remaining.
The Raptors cut the deficit to 93-87 when Chris Bosh, who scored 24 points, split a pair of foul shots at the 5:54 mark. But West and Pierce drained back-to-back 3-pointers as Boston built a 10-point advantage.
"We won because of our ball movement," Pierce said. "Once you move the ball during double-teams, it loosens up their defense. We were able to run pretty much everything."
Wally Szczerbiak, who scored 19 points, ended any hope of an comeback as he connected on a deep shot from the arc with two minutes left, giving the Celtics a 104-91 bulge.
"We hung around all game we just couldn't get the big stop," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "Every time we needed that one stop, they'd make a shot or hit a free throw or get to the line. You can't let a team shoot 54 percent, get to the free-throw line 45 times and outrebound you and expect to win."
Tony Allen had 11 points and two steals for Boston, which shot 54 percent (35-of-64) overall and made 9-of-21 3-pointers.
The Celtics (29-40) remained just four games behind Philadelphia (32-35) for the eighth and final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
"Every game is a must win for us," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "It's not going to be easy, but it still gives us something to chase after."
Morris Peterson and Matt Bonner scored 10 points apiece and Bosh pulled down 11 rebounds for the Raptors, who shot 45 percent (37-of-81) but had their two-game winning streak snapped.
"It's definitely disappointing because we've been having a lot of games like this," said Peterson, who made just 4-of-17 shots. "We come close but we can't get over the mountain top and that was the case."