for this game

Pierce, Celtics hold on to beat Spurs in interconference clash

Feb 10, 2008 - 10:45 PM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Even with two thirds of their frontcourt out with injury, Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics finally managed to come up big at home against the San Antonio Spurs.

Pierce scored 35 points Sunday afternoon and Ray Allen added 19 as the Celtics beat the defending champion Spurs, 98-90, at TD Banknorth Garden.

Boston pulled off the feat despite the absence of All-Star forward Kevin Garnett (abdominal strain) and starting center Kendrick Perkins (left shoulder). It marked the first time in 10 tries that the Celtics beat the Spurs in Boston.

"Any time you beat a quality team like the Spurs, it's a quality win," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "When you win a game, and I don't care who it is against and where it's at, with Kevin out, with Perk out, it's a significant win."

Sunday marked the first time in 10 tries that the Celtics beat the Spurs in Boston.

"It was a great effort," Pierce said. "We played with a lot of intensity, and that's what it's going to take to beat these elite teams in the NBA.

"Regardless, we've got to make up for our lack of players with our hard work and our hustle, and that's what we were able to do today."

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo also played larger than life as he hauled in a team-high 11 rebounds while dishing out a career-best 12 assists, falling just five points shy of a triple-double.

"I just try to do the intangibles on the court," Rondo said. "My role is not to score on this team. Sometimes I can score, but I try to go out there and defend and do the intangibles."

"Every time he leads the team in rebounds, we seem to win," Pierce added with a smile. "So, keep crashing the boards, Rondo."

Leon Powe, who won Friday's game in Minnesota with a last-second layup, and Brian Scalabrine filled in for the Celtics (39-9), who remained perfect (16-0) against Western Conference opponents.

Glen Davis provided a physical presence, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds while matching up against All-Star Tim Duncan.

"They brought effort and they brought their energy," Duncan said. "They got some good play from Glen Davis and he was good for them. Of course, Paul and Ray, they kept them close and they made shots for them when they needed them."

Duncan scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while Manu Ginobili added 21 to lead the Spurs (32-17), who had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Allen hit two free throws with to put Boston up, 77-67, with 9:06 remaining.

But the Spurs chipped away and eventually pulled to within 89-87 on Ginobili's 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:24 remaining.

After Davis' free throw gave the Celtics a 90-87 lead, Michael Finley had a chance to tie the game.

But the veteran sharpshooter's 3-pointer from the left wing rattled in and out with 42 seconds remaining, and Allen made a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to give Boston a 92-87 cushion.

"We did have a rhythm, and we still do have a rhythm," Duncan said. "Too many bad plays down the stretch here. We have an opportunity and a great shot by (Finley) that rattles in and out to tie the game down the stretch. Then two turnovers in a row and they get two offensive rebounds."

Pierce drilled a 15-foot jumper that put Boston up, 61-52, with 4:07 remaining in the third quarter.

"It's easy, I trust the system," Pierce said. "I trust that the ball, if I swing it or set a pick and move without the ball, that the ball will come back and I will take the shots are available to me."

The Spurs responded with a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 62-61 on Ginobili's jumper with 1:32 remaining in the quarter.

James Posey connected on a 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds left to give the Celtics a 68-61 lead heading into the fourth.

Both teams came out on fire in the opening minutes as Pierce and Ginobili traded 3-pointers. Pierce, who led Boston with 14 points in the first quarter, and Ginobili each knocked their first three attempts from beyond the arc.

"We played today against a good team, even without Garnett and they made the plays down the stretch that counted and that's why they won," Ginobili said. "But we hung around and we had a big opportunity."

After falling behind, 5-0, in the opening two minutes, the Celtics rebounded with the next 10 points. Pierce scored 13 of Boston's first 15 points as the Celtics opened a 15-11 lead on Pierce's turnaround jumper with 6:40 remaining in the first.

The Spurs closed out the first quarter with a 12-5 run to take a 23-20 lead.

Reserve Eddie House scored all 10 of his points in the second, helping Boston outscore San Antonio, 23-18. Pierce's jumper with 6.5 seconds remaining capped a 6-0 spurt and gave the Celtics their first lead of the quarter and a 43-41 halftime lead.

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