for this game

Pierce helps Celtics push win streak to nine games

Dec 16, 2007 - 10:25 PM By Brian Herman PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

TORONTO (Ticker) - The Boston Celtics didn't let a snowstorm affect their hot play on the court.

Paul Pierce scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half as the Celtics jumped to a big lead and coasted to a 90-77 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre on a Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Garnett had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Eddie House added 11 points off the bench for Boston (20-2), which has won nine straight games after earlier this season posting eight straight victories.

"That was a really good win for us," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought our guys played with an amazing amount of energy, and I thought our focus was very good which is what you have to have on the road, especially against a team like the Raptors."

Playing without Ray Allen (ankle) for a second straight game didn't affect the Celtics, who scored the first six points of the game - four on jumpers by Garnett - and shot 58 percent (21-of-36) in the opening 24 minutes.

Boston went on a 26-7 run that bridged the opening two quarters to build a 21-point lead. Tony Allen's 3-pointer with 7:09 remaining in the second quarter gave the Celtics a 40-19 lead. Seven different Celtics contributed points during the burst.

"I told them we have to come out of the box with great intensity and they did," Rivers said.

"We're averaging 90-100 points a game but the defense really stepped up tonight," Pierce said.

Boston took a 50-36 halftime lead and pushed it to 23 on two free throws by James Posey with 1:34 left in the third before Jason Kapono sparked a 15-2 Toronto run with seven points that cut Boston's lead to 73-61 with 9:10 left in the game. Kapono knocked down a 3-pointer and two jumpers during the spurt.

But the Celtics responded with jumpers by Garnett and Pierce, a 3-pointer by House and a short jumper by Pierce for an 80-63 cushion with 5:52 left. Shots from the arc by Allen and House provided an 86-65 lead with 3 1/2 minutes to play.

"In this league teams are going to make runs and try to gain momentum," Garnett said. "They started to make their way back and we adjusted to what they were doing and never looked back."

Toronto came into the game on a season-high four-game winning streak but shot just 29 percent (11-of-38) in the first half and 39 percent (28-of-72) overall.

"They are a better basketball team than we are right now," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "They set the bar for where all teams need to try to be and that's what we'll strive to do."

Chris Bosh missed six of seven shot attempts in the first half and finished with 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting with 13 rebounds and five assists.

"Their defense was very aggressive," Bosh said. "They are very long and athletic and the plays that we usually make just weren't there. They were getting in the passing lanes, clogging up the lane and they contested every shot."

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