Pierce pours in 31 as Celtics slip past Howard, Magic

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Celtics are benefiting from Doc Rivers'
decision to keep things simple.

Paul Pierce scored 31 points and Wally Szczerbiak added 24 to
lead the Celtics to a 102-94 win over Orlando on Sunday night in
Grant Hill's return to the Magic lineup.

After acquiring Szczerbiak in a seven-player trade from
Minnesota on Jan. 26 and losing frontcourt players Al Jefferson and
Kendrick Perkins to injuries recently, Rivers knew he had to
simplify the offense.

"We just run two sets and that's what I told them because I
know Wally knows them both," Rivers said. "That's all we're going
to run, and we don't care if they know it's coming or not. We're
just going to run it and as long as we execute it with Wally, Paul,
Raef (LaFrentz) and Delonte (West's) ability to spread the floor, I
still think we're going to get a good shot."

LaFrentz had 16 points before fouling out and West scored 14 for
Boston, which got only three points from its reserves. Ryan Gomes,
making his second career start, had a career-high 14 points and
nine rebounds.

For the second straight game, the Celtics spaced the floor
better to open things up for Pierce's drives and open 3s for

"Everybody's understanding their role," Pierce said. "It's a
lot easier for me. Guys know what we're doing every time down. We
run one, two, maybe three different plays."

The TD Banknorth Garden was about a third full as a major
snowstorm in the Northeast dumped more than a foot of snow in the
area, but the fans that made it saw the Celtics' second straight
home win after a season-high six-game losing streak. Boston beat
Portland 115-83 on Friday.

Dwight Howard had 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Magic,
losers of five straight road games. Hedo Turkoglu added 16 points
and Hill had 15 after missing last 13 games due to rehab from a
sports hernia.

"I feel pretty good," Hill said. "It's just a little rust out
there, a couple of times I lost the ball."

After the Magic tied it 84-all, Pierce scored six points -- five
from the free throw line -- during a game-turning 12-4 run as Boston
took a 96-88 lead with 1:30 left.

"Well, in Paul Pierce, they have one of the best drivers in the
game and unfortunately we fouled him a little too much," Orlando
coach Brian Hill said.

The Celtics made 10 of 14 3-pointers, led by LaFrentz's four and
West's three.

"It all goes back to moving the ball," Rivers said.

Boston had opened a 81-73 edge on Gomes' two free throws with
9:01 to play, but Orlando used an 11-3 spurt, capped by Steve
Francis' three-point play, to tie it with 4:56 left.

The Celtics, who led 47-45 at the half, opened a 66-58 lead on
Szczerbiak's 3-pointer midway into the third quarter before Howard
had five points in a 11-0 run that pushed Orlando back in front.

Boston's first two fast-break baskets of the game -- a dunk by
Szczerbiak and Gomes' driving layup at the end of the third quarter
--moved the Celtics ahead 72-71.

Game notes
A Celtics team spokesman said before the game that the team
decided to play the game as scheduled because Orlando was in town
and two of the referees were here, too. Referee Tom Washington
couldn't make it to Boston due to the storm. ... The start of the
second half was delayed after a male fan was injured during a
halftime layup promotion and had to be taken off on a stretcher.
... West was selected to replace Orlando's injured guard Jameer
Nelson on the sophomore team of the NBA's rookie challenge on
All-Star weekend. ... Bruins winger Patrice Bergeron was in
attendance. ... The Celtics' only home cancelations due to weather
were during the Blizzard of 1978, Feb. 10th and 12th. ... Perkins
missed his second straight with a dislocated left shoulder and
Jefferson his fourth with a sprained right ankle.