for this game

Pierce's late bucket keeps Celtics undefeated

Nov 17, 2007 - 4:44 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics did their best to give away the game, but Paul Pierce came through at the end.

Pierce scored on a baseline drive with 25 seconds left and Dwyane Wade missed a straightaway jumper from the top of the key in the waning seconds as the Boston Celtics survived a fourth-quarter meltdown for a 92-91 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday.

Kevin Garnett helped get Shaquille O'Neal in early foul trouble and scored 26 points as the Celtics (8-0) continued their best start since beginning the 1972-73 season with 10 straight wins.

"Well we won the game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "And it was a great game to win. The end of the game stuff was good, that we could actually use it. I told our guys I was proud of them, because at the end of the game we had a couple of great things that happened."

"We're trying to get better and we know the way we have to get better is through the small things which add up into victories and losses and we know in order to stay a solid consistent team we have to consistently do these little things," Garnett said.

Wade had 23 points and six assists in his second game - first start - and O'Neal scored 17 in 27 minutes for the Heat (1-8), who are off to their worst nine-game start since losing their first 17 games of the 1988-89 season.

"You gotta watch out for teams like this," Pierce said. "They're 1-7 and they're desperate for a win and they have Wade back. We let our guard down for a minute I thought, but it was a good game for us. Every night we're finding out more and more about ourselves and games like this really help us."

The Celtics blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead with lackluster play, committing seven of their 18 turnovers in the fourth and making just 6-of-15 shots but came through down the stretch.

A short jumper by Garnett gave Boston an 86-71 lead with 8:11 left, but that was the last point the Celtics scored until Ray Allen hit two free throws with 2:08 left that broke a tie.

In between, Ricky Davis scored six points, Wade knocked down a 3-pointer and O'Neal converted 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game at 86-86.

"We've always had horrible third quarters but we would know how to fight back in the fourth and we had it, all we needed was one stop," O'Neal said. "Paul Pierce made a fabulous move and D-Wade took the final shot and it hit the back iron."

After Allen's free throws, Rajon Rondo hit a short jumper from the right corner for a four-point lead, but Wade got two back on a drive to the left.

A fast-break dunk by Daequan Cook off a steal by Udonis Haslem tied the game, but the rookie missed a chance to convert the three-point play with 53 seconds left.

After Pierce came up short on a drive, Haslem rebounded, got fouled by Kevin Garnett and split two free throws for a 91-90 lead with 33 seconds left.

"It was a (dumb) foul," Garnett said. "I thought both teams played well down the stretch. I mean we turned the ball over and made some careless mistakes to make the game interesting, but Paul and Rondo hit some big shots and Pose (Posey) at the end had a big stop."

Boston called time, gave Pierce another chance, and the All-Star drove the left baseline and banked in the go-ahead hoop with 25 seconds left.

"Truthfully I was surprised coach called the play for me," Pierce said. "I've been struggling with a strain in my back and I've been struggling all night, but he still has tremendous confidence in me, in all of us, and I wanted to be there for my teammates at the end. It was a good call."

"We ran it and Paul got it deep, and scored," Rivers added. "And I told Paul I was just really proud of him because on games that you struggle, we still believe in you. And he responded with a made basket. We had plenty of chances to take this game out of reach."

After a timeout, Wade dribbled the clock down to five seconds but couldn't shake James Posey, settling for a step-back jumper that clanked off the backboard and rim.

"I'm a gamer man, the coach called the play and I'm a gamer and I went for the game," said Wade, who made his first start and played in his second game back since injuring his shoulder in the playoffs last season.

"The shot, I had a good look and I just didn't make it, you give it to me 10 more times and I will do the same thing ten more times. It's just my mentality."

Allen finished with 19 points and Pierce scored 12 for Boston, which overcame 18 turnovers.

The teams exchanged leads seven times in the first six minutes of the second quarter before Garnett's 16-foot jumper with 5:31 gave the Celtics the lead. Boston used Garnett's 16 first-half points to take a 52-46 halftime lead.

The Celtics extended their lead to 15 twice in the third quarter as Posey came off the bench to score seven points while helping Boston to a 76-65 lead after three.

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