BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce is helping his Celtics teammates do
what he does best -- score points.
Pierce led Boston with 35 points and had nine assists as the
Celtics used defense and the 3-point shot to beat the Utah Jazz
112-95 Monday night.
''I know the focus of the defense most of the time is going to
be on me,'' Pierce said. ''If I can find open men, it's going to
open things up for me.''
The Celtics were 10-for-29 on 3-point shots, and six of those
baskets came on assists from Pierce after defenders collapsed on
him. They were 9-for-17 in the second half when Tony Delk and
Shammond Williams each went 3-for-4.
Antoine Walker's 27 points included three 3-pointers as Boston
won its fifth straight game after losing its other two.
''Everybody stepped up and made big shots when they had to,''
Walker said. ''We came out in the third quarter a little bit more
aggressive going to the basket and then we exploded.''
The Celtics have progressed since a 114-69 loss to Washington in
their second game, the biggest setback in club history.
On Monday night, Boston squandered a 17-point first-quarter lead
and trailed 45-41 at halftime. But the Celtics took control with an
11-0 run in the third quarter that made it 63-52. Delk hit two
3-pointers in the surge, both on passes from Pierce, who led the
Celtics in assists for the fourth time in seven games.
''When they are all on, it's tough,'' Harpring said. ''We tried
to make the other guys (than Pierce and Walker) beat us, but we
didn't limit easy shots.''
The Jazz didn't handle the ball very well either, committing 29
turnovers that led to 37 points.
''In a situation like this, everybody wants to blame someone
else, but I had four (turnovers) myself,'' Malone said.
In the third quarter, the Celtics started connecting. That kept
the Jazz from scoring off Boston misses, which had allowed them to
go ahead in the second quarter. Boston made 62.5 percent of its
shots in the second half.
The Celtics hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter and four in
the fourth. Pierce scored 27 points in the second half after making
just 2-of-6 shots in the first. He also finished with three blocks,
three steals, seven rebounds and two turnovers in 35 minutes.
''I was kind of burning up inside'' at halftime, Pierce said.
''No way should we give up a 17-point lead. I just wanted to make
up for it in the second half.''
Pierce scored Boston's first seven points of the fourth quarter.
The closest Utah came in the period was 87-80 before Pierce hit a
field goal and Walker sank two 3-pointers for a 95-80 lead with
8:14 to go.
The Celtics had led 29-12 with 32 seconds left in the first
quarter as Utah made just four field goals. The last, a layup by
Harpring, made it 29-14. But Utah outscored them 31-12 in the
second with all its points coming from substitutes Harpring,
Padgett and Calbert Cheaney.
But Boston matched its halftime total in the third quarter
alone, outscoring Utah 41-28 to take an 82-73 lead. Pierce had 15
points in the quarter and Delk made three 3-pointers.
Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn announced their 1,000th
televised Celtics game. Former Celtic Bill Walton spoke at a brief
halftime ceremony. Tributes played on the video screen included one
from Gov.-elect Mitt Romney, who headed the 2002 Olympics in Salt
Lake City, the home of the Jazz. ... Utah opened a five-game road
trip and plays at New York on Tuesday night. ... Boston's next two
games are at home against Philadelphia and Dallas.