for this game

Pierce, Garnett lead Celtics to eighth straight win

Jan 5, 2008 - 4:36 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- As Ray Allen struggled through a difficult night, Tony Allen didn't let the Boston Celtics look too far ahead on Friday night.

Tony Allen scored 15 of his season-high 20 points in the second quarter to help the Celtics to a 100-96 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, setting up round two of a battle between Eastern Conference powers on Saturday night.

Paul Pierce had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Garnett also scored 23 for the Celtics, who won their eighth straight contest and improved to 16-1 at home.

Boston will next visit the Central Division-leading Detroit Pistons on Saturday, looking for payback against the one team they have played this season but have yet to beat.

"We're ready," Pierce said. "They're the hottest team in the league and the last team to beat us. It definitely could be a statement game."

The Pistons, who have won 11 straight games overall, gave Boston its last loss and only home setback of the season December 19. Detroit defeated Toronto on Friday to extend its winning streak.

After a sluggish affair Friday that saw the Celtics fail to put away a 9-23 club, they can now turn all their focus on the Pistons.

"They're the team we're chasing," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Detroit. "I don't care about records. We believe we have to improve to catch Detroit."

"Doc asked us at shootaround who we were playing next Wednesday and Friday and nobody knew," Pierce said. "But everybody knew we were playing Detroit on Saturday, but we had to take care of Memphis tonight."

To get that win, the Celtics will likely need plenty more from Ray Allen, who was 0-of-6 in the first quarter and barely avoided his first scoreless effort since February 26, 1997 with two free throws with just 9.3 seconds left to play.

Allen also had a string of 126 consecutive games of scoring at least 10 points snapped as he finished 0-of-9 from the field.

The six-time All-Star saw Friday's win as proof the Celtics can get by without his scoring, unlike previous teams he's been on.

"No, the team definitely doesn't win (in the past without his scoring)," Allen said. "It's a comfort to know we have proven guys here that can get the job done. There's a relief because I don't have to stress out sitting on the bench worrying about not scoring."

But Tony Allen provided the much-needed spark with a 3-pointer to cap the club's scoring in the first quarter before taking over in the second. His lefty runner in the lane put the Celtics ahead, 43-39, as he eclipsed his previous season high of 16 points in a span of less than 11 minutes.

"(Tony Allen) came in and he provided a great lift for us, that's the beauty of what he had tonight," Ray Allen said. "We had a lot of bench production. For some reason, we didn't have what we needed to look the way we like to look, but we got the win."

Pierce and Garnett scored nine points apiece in the third to keep the Grizzlies at bay, with Pierce's three-point play staking the Celtics to a 68-55 advantage with 3:57 left in the quarter.

Boston, just the fourth team in NBA history to start 28-3, appeared in command when rookie Glen Davis made it 91-77 on a dunk with 5:20 left. But it would not record a field goal for five more minutes - allowing the Grizzlies back in with a 9-0 run that cut Boston's lead to five points with 1:25 to play.

Garnett's putback broke the drought from the field and gave the Celtics a 97-89 bulge with 20 seconds to play and Ray Allen's only two points made it 100-96 moments later.

Rudy Gay had 21 points and Juan Carlos Navarro added 20 off the bench for Memphis, which has lost six of its last seven games. The Grizzlies' late run seemed to give them a boost, despite falling short.

"It just goes to show you what kind of team we have, and I think we can play with anybody," said Gay, who was 8-of-12 from the floor after the first quarter.

Navarro scored 13 points and Gay seven in the fourth, when Memphis shot 11-of-19 from the floor.

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