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Bobcats drop 9th straight

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- For the Boston Celtics to break their
nine-game road losing streak, they had to learn to let Paul Pierce
carry them down the stretch.

That was the message coach Doc Rivers delivered, and the Celtics
heard him loud and clear.

Pierce scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to lead
Boston to a 97-92 victory Tuesday night over the Charlotte Bobcats,
who lost their ninth in a row overall.

"The guys made an effort to really look to me, I don't think
that's been the case in the past," Pierce said. "Yesterday in
practice Doc said this is what we need to do, establish something
in the fourth quarter.

"That's what most teams need to do, go to the best player in
the fourth quarter and expect him to make plays. I'm our best
player."

Pierce helped the Celtics by making 10 free throws in the final
period, and 13 of 16 in all. He also grabbed three defensive
rebounds in the final period and had two steals.

Pierce hit what appeared to be the game-sealing jumper with 1:22
to play. But Jason Hart made a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to
cut it to 94-91.

Gary Payton made a pair of free throws for Boston, but the
Bobcats still had a chance with four free throw attempts.

Once again, they faltered at the line. Primoz Brezec made just
one of his shots and Emeka Okafor missed both of his attempts.

Pierce then sealed it with a free throw with 13 seconds to play
to give the Celtics a road victory for the first time since Dec. 18
in Cleveland.

"He got in rhythm the fourth quarter," Rivers said. "We got
it to our guy and our guy really took charge."

Raef LaFrentz scored 12 points for Boston and Ricky Davis added
11.

Okafor scored all 20 of his points in the second half and added
12 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Bobcats. But he was
0-for-4 at the line -- and the Bobcats were 10-of-22.

"Every game it's the same story, we just can't make free
throws," Brezec said. "This is getting ridiculous. We can't knock
them down and it's in our heads."

Brezec finished with 18 points for Charlotte, Kareem Rush had 17
and Keith Bogans added 12. Hart had 10 assists.

Things got testy between the Bobcats midway through the second
quarter when Hart spent much of a timeout yelling at Brezec. When
Hart wouldn't calm down, coach Bernie Bickerstaff tried to restore
order.

"I'll tell you what you're going to do," he said to Hart.
"You go sit over there and argue."

Hart somehow sweet-talked his way out of trouble, and he and
Brezec both returned to the game.

"That was the most selfish basketball game that this team has
played," Bickerstaff said. "Everything that happened, we
responded personally. Guys were open, and we were concerned about
ourselves as individuals."

Hart was not available for comment after the game, and Brezec
blew off the argument.

"We're good, that happens," Brezec said. "Some of that stuff
is positive. We just can't sit on the bench and pretend everything
is all right."

But as far as Bickerstaff is concerned, the biggest problem with
the Bobcats is their free throw shooting. In back-to-back fourth
quarters, the Bobcats have shot 5-of-14 at the line in close games.

"It's a fundamental thing they do in their job," he said.
"How do we do it? We make them. That's the solution."

Game notes
The Bobcats missed their first four shots, the Celtics
opened 1-for-6. But Boston took off from there, making 10 of its
next 16 shots in the first quarter. ... Okafor missed his first six
shots. ... Bobcats guard Brevin Knight missed his third straight
game with a sprained ankle. ... Boston rookie Tony Allen's second
start wasn't as productive as his first. He finished with seven
points on 2-for-4 shooting after a 20-point effort in 27 minutes on
Saturday night in Atlanta.