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Pierce scores 31, hits key shot as Celts beat Pacers

BOSTON (AP) -- After he banked in the game-winning 3-pointer for
the Boston Celtics on Friday night, Paul Pierce turned his hands
upward to the heavens, seemingly surprising even himself. It was an
homage to Michael Jordan's famous shoulder-shrug during Game 1 of
the 1992 NBA Finals.

"I remember when Mike hit all those threes against Portland,"
Pierce said. "And I just wanted to do it."

While he didn't replicate Jordan's 35 points in the first half
of Chicago's victory over Portland in '92, Pierce scored 12 of his
31 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Celtics to a 99-98
victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Pierce's 3-pointer with 39.2 seconds left in the game, and 4
seconds left on the shot clock, put the Celtics ahead for good,
99-96.

"I just didn't want to foul him," said Jackson, who scored 20
points and was in Pierce's face on his 3-pointer. "I wanted to
make him make a tough shot. I thought I did my job -- he just did
his better."

Fred Jones made a lay-up to cut the lead to one-point, but
Stephen Jackson missed a jumper over Tony Allen's outstretched arm
at the buzzer, giving the Celtics their sixth victory in nine tries
after dropping six in a row.

"We narrowed it down to Jackson and then Freddie Jones (who
would take the last shot)," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said.
"Tony got up into Jackson, which I thought was the right thing to
do, and they had to shoot a fade-away shot."

It was the fourth game in a row that Pierce netted better than
30 points and the 10th time in 11 games he's topped the 30-point
mark.

"The rim is looking bigger and bigger every game," Pierce
said.

Jones, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter,
tied the game at 94 with 1:34 remaining. But he missed the
subsequent free throw that would have given the Pacers the lead.

The Pacers also failed to grab the rebound after Pierce missed a
jumper with 8.8 seconds left to play.

Delonte West added 17 points and seven assists for the Celtics.
Wally Szczerbiak, Ryan Gomes and Raef LaFrentz all scored in double
figures for the Boston.

Peja Stojakovic led the Pacers with 24 points.

After trailing the entire second quarter and by as many as 12
points in the third quarter, the Celtics went on a 14-2 run to tie
the game, 72-72, on a dunk by Greene.

The Pacers shot 54 percent from the field in the first half to
take a 55-52 lead into the half. Jackson led the way with 11
points.<
^Notes@: The Celtics won the last meeting between the two teams,
85-71. It was the fewest amount of points surrendered all season by
the Celtics. On Friday, the Pacers eclipsed their point total from
Dec. 14 with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter. ... Pacers guard
Jamaal Tinsley missed his 14th consecutive game with a sore right
elbow.