97 - 117 Final
  for this game

Garnett, Pierce get Celtics back on track

Mar 27, 2008 - 3:48 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce weren't about to let the Boston Celtics let another fourth-quarter lead get away.

Amidst MVP chants from another sellout crowd, Garnett added a team-high 30 points as the Celtics snapped just their third losing streak of season with a 117-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday at TD Banknorth Garden.

"We have other guys who are more than capable of stepping up. It just happened tonight, where we got it going," Pierce said. "Coach (Doc Rivers) said we had to work it inside and out, and we knew that they didn't have anybody to stop Kevin in the post, along with myself, and that's what coach said before the game, and we took advantage of that."

Pierce exploded for 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter while Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen chipped in with 14 each for Boston (56-15), which improved to 13-1 at home this season against Western Conference foes.

"I think it was consistent throughout the whole game," Allen said of the Pierce-Garnett combination. "They had no answer for them. It's one thing when you're watching what we're doing but they're making shots over the top of them and there was nothing they could do about it."

After losing double-digit leads to New Orleans and Philadelphia in each of their last two games - both losses - the Celtics were out to snap a brief two-game skid.

The Celtics raced out to a 15-point lead, 33-18, when James Posey hit a pair of free throws with 15.5 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

They built their big lead thanks to hard work on the glass, outrebounding the Suns, 15-6, and 6-1 on the offensive boards.

Kendrick Perkins was key in the effort, hauling in seven rebounds and playing tight defense on Shaquille O'Neal.

But O'Neal's hook shot cut Boston's lead to 33-20 after the first and started a 14-2 run for Phoenix, drawing to within three, 35-32, on Gordan Giricek's jumper with just under eight minutes left before halftime.

The Suns picked apart the Celtics' defense and controlled the tempo the rest of the half, outscoring the Celtics, 25-22, to tie the game at the break, 57-57.

"We really didn't play that well tonight in the first quarter, we played OK in the second quarter to get ourselves back in it, but we just weren't really good enough," Suns point guard Steve Nash said. "I can't analyze it any better than that, we weren't good enough. We were sloppy and didn't make enough shots."

Phoenix, the NBA's best shooting team from the field at 50 percent, made 14 of their 17 field goals in the second quarter.

It was Rondo who took apart the Suns in the third. His layup in the first 20 seconds of the third gave the Celtics the lead while his spectacular crossover fake and drive down the lane which left Nash in his wake and put Boston up, 79-69, with 2:50 left in the period.

"Rondo has been showing all year that he can stand off with any point guard eye-to-eye he matches up with," Pierce said. "You look at all the guards he had to match up with in the last week and a half, with the Tony Parkers and the Chris Pauls, and to me, he outplayed those guys."

Hurting Phoenix's cause were 21 turnovers that led to 31 Boston points, off-setting its 56 percent shooting from the field.

"Well, if you turn the ball over a lot, you don't have chances, they shot 50 something percent, so we didn't have a whole lot of chances," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They are good about getting back and stuff. When you shoot 56 percent and get beat by 20, something is wrong.

"Offensively, that should be enough to be in the game, we just didn't get it done."

The Suns scored just 16 points in the third while Rondo had eight points himself to help Boston take an 84-73 lead heading into the final quarter.

"I don't think they really took us out of our rhythm," O'Neal said. "I think it's just with a team like this, in this building you really can't make a lot of mistakes. It seemed like tonight they got all the loose balls, and I think we had about 20 turnovers which is way too many, especially in this building."

Pierce hit a fallaway jumper and was fouled with 10:12 remaining. His free throw put Boston up by 12 points.

Several times in the fourth quarter, including while he was at the free-throw line, the crowd began chanting MVP to Garnett. But afterward, he spoke up for his high-powered teammate and captain.

"Honestly, I'm trying to block it out to make the free throws, which is kind of sad," Garnett admitted. "But my MVP is sitting next to me. Paul does things that people really don't see on the stat sheet."

Pierce made all nine of his free throws and collected six rebounds and four assists to complement Garnett's offense.

"He distributed the ball, got guys easy baskets, we were in that game, I think we were down early, but he was doing small things to get us back into it that people don't see," Garnett said. "He's our No. 1 option for a reason, and that's why he's an MVP."

Amare Stoudemire had a game-high 32 points and O'Neal added 16 to lead Phoenix (47-24), which lost for just the second time in nine games.