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Payton, Davis help Celtics pull away

BOSTON (AP) -- Gary Payton and the Boston Celtics shook off a
sluggish first half once they realized they couldn't just walk over
the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

The Celtics beat the Bobcats 91-74 on Friday night with an
aggressive third quarter and a strong performance by their second
team even though Paul Pierce struggled most of the game.

"We thought we were playing somebody who wasn't really good and
this team is good," Payton said of the Bobcats. "We need to run
and get easy baskets. Once we started doing that we got a bounce in
our step."

The Celtics won their third straight game by turning a 41-41
halftime tie into a 68-57 lead after three quarters. Payton had 10
points and two assists, and Ricky Davis added six points and three
assists in the third period.

Then in the fourth, second-year point guard Marcus Banks and
rookie guard Tony Allen led the second unit. Each scored six of
Boston's first 12 points, 10 on layups, tips or dunks, putting the
Celtics ahead 80-66 with 7:51 left.

"We play together every day. We're basically like a family,"
Banks said of the backups. "We were using our athleticism and
speed and quickness to get by those guys."

The Celtics led by 12 to 19 points the rest of the way with
Pierce, who had just five points in the first 43 minutes, adding
five in the last five. Davis scored 19 points, Payton added 15 and
Banks had 13. The Celtics outscored the Bobcats 27-9 on fastbreaks
and had 31 points off turnovers.

"Paul Pierce is a great player, but he's not the whole team,"
Charlotte's Emeka Okafor said. "Their other guys, like Payton and
Davis, made up for it."

The Bobcats, 0-2 on the road and 1-3 overall, were led by Eddie
House with 15 points and Jason Hart with 13. House wasn't surprised
that Charlotte kept the game close in the first half.

"No disrespect to Boston, but we weren't playing the Spurs or
Detroit," he said.

The Bobcats led for most of the first half, but the Celtics tied
it with the last two baskets, a layup by Davis and a dunk by
Kendrick Perkins.

Then the Celtics' experience, athleticism and shooting took
over. They made 11 of 21 shots in the third quarter while Charlotte
connected on just 7 of 21.

"It was an ugly game, but we managed to pull it off," Pierce
said. "We made some strides off the bench."

The Bobcats took their last lead, 45-43, on a dunk by Primoz
Brezec. Then Payton hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and a layup, making
it 50-45 with 6:59 left in the quarter. Boston took its biggest
lead of the period, 66-55 on a dunk by rookie Al Jefferson off a
steal by Davis.

Raef LaFrentz had five points and six rebounds in the quarter.

"We got selfish in terms of `this is about me and this isn't
happening for me," Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "It's
that simple. We were awful."

Charlotte's Steve Smith sank the first basket of the fourth
quarter, a 3-pointer that cut the lead to 68-60. Then Boston's
young guards took over. Banks hit the next two baskets for the
Celtics, Allen scored three in a row and Banks finished the 12-6
run with a layup, making it 80-66.

"We were just absolutely flat and you could see that. We won
because we had a couple of boosts," Boston coach Doc Rivers said.
"Our second unit was phenomenal."

Game notes
Pierce had an off night after his basket at the buzzer beat
Portland 90-88 on Wednesday night. He went 3-for-13 from the field
with seven turnovers but had seven assists, seven rebounds and four
steals. ... Okafor, who spent his college career at nearby
Connecticut, finished with six points and 11 rebounds, his third
straight game with at least 10 rebounds.