for this game

Pierce, Allen lead as Celtics blow past Sixers

Jan 19, 2008 - 5:32 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer BOSTON (Ticker) -- Ray Allen has shaken off the rust, so it was Paul Pierce's turn on Friday.

Pierce scored 14 of his 22 points in the third quarter and Allen continued his resurgence from a mini-slump with 23 as the Boston Celtics pulled away late for a 116-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics improved to 18-3 at home and won for the second straight time since their only two-game losing streak this season.

They did so with a blistering second half in which they shot 62 percent (24-of-39) from the floor and outscored the 76ers, 62-32. Allen and Pierce were the catalysts in a game that saw six Boston players score in double figures.

"I thought we played with a lot more passion in the third and fourth quarters," Pierce said. "We had to bring our 'A' game in the second half."

Allen had averaged just 10.7 points through his first six games this month, but broke out of the funk with a season-high 35 in the Celtics' 100-90 victory over Portland on Wednesday.

Pierce was limited to 12 points in that contest, the sixth straight game he had been held under 20. That marks the longest stretch that the five-time All-Star had failed to reach 20 since a 13-game span during his 1998-99 rookie campaign.

Pierce had just eight points in the first half Friday, and Philadelphia shot 57 percent (24-for-42) from the field to take a 57-54 lead at the break.

Andre Iguodala opened the scoring in the second half with a runner for the Sixers, but Pierce then took over.

Pierce's 3-pointer with 7:18 left in the third forged a 61-61 tie - the first deadlock since 36-36 - and he added a three-point play four minutes later to give Boston its first lead, 69-68, since early in the second.

"Paul played huge, so huge he didn't have to play the fourth," said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who was limited to 11 points but had a season-high eight assists. "Once we got the ball moving, guys were being aggressive."

Pierce was 5-of-6 in the third and made both of his shots from the arc. He did sit the entire fourth, when Allen and the Celtics' bench led an offensive outbreak that turned a tight contest into a laugher.

Allen had 10 points in the quarter and Eddie House - making his second start in place of the injured Rajon Rondo - added 11 to finish with 15. House made all three of his tries from long range in the fourth as Boston finished a season-best 14-of-22 (64 percent) from 3-point range.

"They just started making shots," said Iguodala, who led Philadelphia with 17 points. "You know, Ray Allen was hitting, Paul Pierce started hitting shots, guys on the wing hitting shots."

Leon Powe, whose girlfriend gave birth to a boy earlier in the week, finished with a season-high 10 points and six boards.

"He was very energetic from the beginning," Garnett said of Powe. "Grabbing some boards and being very active. I'm happy for the new-found dad. It was nice for him."

Both Garnett and James Posey used the term "pick your poison" when describing how defenses are forced to play Boston when it heats up. The Celtics' 62 second-half points and their 38 in the fourth both were team season highs.

"We got guys on this team that can shoot the ball and to move the ball like that is like picking your poison for the most part," Posey said.

Building on a stunning fourth quarter in Houston on Tuesday, in which they outscored the Rockets, 37-22, to snap a seven-game losing streak, the Sixers came out hot, shooting 63 percent (12-of-19) from the floor in the first quarter.

Soon after Pierce buried a 3-pointer to open the second and give the hosts a 32-29 advantage, Philadelphia put together a 19-5 run and took its largest lead at 51-39 on a basket by Samuel Dalembert midway through the quarter.

But House, who made a long jumper with 1.7 seconds left in the first quarter, capped Boston's 15-6 burst to close the first half with a 12-footer with 1.8 ticks remaining.

The Sixers controlled the glass most of the game and finished with 18 offensive boards, but were hurt by 23 turnovers and a 19-for-33 (58 percent) effort from the line.

"Yeah, free-throw shooting hurt us, hurt us bad," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Our inability at the end of the half, and each quarter (to make free throws), I thought that was huge for us. It ended up being a big turnaround."

Dalembert scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half for the Sixers, who had a total of 10 baskets after intermission.

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