for this game

Pierce, Celtics roll to another road win

Dec 30, 2007 - 6:03 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics already have outdone themselves.

Paul Pierce scored 24 points - all in the second half - and Ray Allen added 23 as the streaking Celtics surpassed their win total from last season with a 104-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Kevin Garnett added 15 points and nine rebounds for Boston, which has won five in a row and 14 of its last 15 contests.

"(Utah) is one of, if not the hardest places to play," Garnett said. "This building has been electrifying, always. Ever since I've played here, there's been good energy in here. Anytime you win, especially when it's a collective group and it's collectively, it's big."

It also was the seventh straight road victory for the Celtics, who have won the first three games in a four-game West Coast trip. Boston will renew its old rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers in the jaunt's finale on Sunday.

Kendrick Perkins had 11 points and nine rebounds for the revamped Celtics (25-3), who went 24-58 last season, not winning their 24th game until April 16.

"We haven't really done anything," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I mean we've won games, whatever our record is, as far as we're concerned, we're just starting. We'll take anything we can get, but we have to keep getting better."

Despite the impressive win on Saturday, it did not look good early for Boston, which trailed by seven points at halftime with Pierce going scoreless before the break.

"I just wasn't playing aggressive in the first half. I was settling for shots and not being aggressive. I knew that I had an advantage, especially in the post. I was really mad at myself at the half and I knew I was going to come out more aggressively."

But it outscored slumping Utah, 55-42, in the final two periods to secure the victory on the back of Pierce, who not only tallied his entire point total during that span but came up big in the final minutes.

"We had to show mental toughness to win this game," Rivers said.

After Carlos Boozer split a pair of free throws to tie the game at 98-98 with 48 seconds left, the Celtics went to Pierce, who made a clutch layup after a dazzling drive along the left baseline to give Boston the lead for good.

Pierce, who is known for his craftiness rather than athleticism, pump-faked his defender in the air to draw a foul on the ensuing possession. He nailed both free throws to make it a two-possession game with 11.9 ticks left.

Deron Williams had 22 points and 11 assists and Boozer added 19 and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who are just 3-11 over their last 14 games.

"What hurt us was the five turnovers we had in the fourth quarter," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We just handed the ball to them, and the turnovers are going to kill you in that situation."

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    BOSTON 76
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