for this game

Jefferson helps Celtics rally past SuperSonics

Mar 10, 2007 - 5:24 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- It may be too late, but Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge can smile for a change.

Al Jefferson had 31 points and 16 rebounds and Paul Pierce added 21 and seven assists as the Boston Celtics used a strong third quarter to rally for a 118-103 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.

Rookie Rajon Rondo netted 20 points and high-flying Gerald Green added 19 for the Celtics, who posted their fifth win in six games and avoided their fourth straight loss to Seattle.

Rich with a winning tradition, the Celtics (18-43) are playing through one of their most disappointing seasons in recent years, highlighted by a franchise-worst 18-game slide from January 7-February 11.

With guard Delonte West and forward Ryan Gomes sidelined with injuries, Rivers relied on his deep bench of youthful players.

"We lost two key guys so for the young guys to come in and step up and keep the lead in the fourth quarter was good," Pierce said. "At one point,(Rivers) was going to put me in the game and I told him to leave the guys out there a little bit longer because they were playing so well."

Boston seemed to return to its early season struggles as Seattle built a 72-59 cushion on Earl Watson's jumper with 8 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

However, the Celtics responded with an impressive 25-10 burst to close the period and open an 84-82 edge. Boston shot 61 percent (11-of-18) from the field to outscore Seattle, 27-16, in the quarter.

"I think it was just about the defense," Jefferson said. "It was the defense that made the big run in the second half to win the game. So we are just all about defense."

Boston continued to its surge with Jefferson and rookies Leon Powe and Allan Ray combining for all 17 points through the first five minutes of the final period, extending the lead to 101-92 with 7:13 remaining.

"Al woke up in the second half defensively," Rivers said. "He was fantastic. First half he was as bad as he was good in the second half. So that was good to see. Just nice offensively to see everybody share the ball."

Jefferson poured in 22 second-half points on 9-of-11 shooting.

"We had no answer for Jefferson," Seattle guard Ray Allen said. "The man killed us down there."

In the second half, Seattle shot just 31 percent (13-of-42) and committed nine of its 15 turnovers.

"The defense in the second half was phenomenal," Rivers said. "That's all."

Allen scored 22 points to lead six players in double figures for the SuperSonics, who fell to 1-2 on their four-game East Coast swing.

"On the defensive side of the ball, we completely fell apart," Allen said.

"We didn't guard anyone all night long," Seattle coach Bob Hill said. "We were unable to follow the game plan."

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