Paul Pierce hit his first six 3-point field goals on the night and scored a season-high 40 points as the Celtics hung on for a 103-91 win over the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night at TD Garden. The win snapped Boston's three-game losing skid and helped them back over .500 at 13-12 on the season while the Cavaliers fell to an NBA-worst 5-22 on the season. Pierce finished 13-of-16 from the field to lead a red-hot Celtics night from the floor. Boston shot 59 percent from the field as a team. It was Pierce's 24th career 40-point game.
The Celtics appeared to have the game well in hand, building a 20-point lead with 3:16 left in the third. But Boston's bench got sloppy with the ball and allowed the Cavaliers to go on a 20-2 run that made it close in the fourth. The Celtics went on a 10-1 run to fend off the Cavaliers late in the fourth quarter.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers shook things up before the game, benching Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass and starting Jason Terry and Jason Collins. The move allowed Kevin Garnett to move back to his more natural spot at big forward while Pierce picked up the scoring pace.
The move also took advantage of the absence of Anderson Varejao. The NBA's leading rebounder (14.4 rebounds per game) was out with a knee injury.
Early on, the Celtics had trouble shaking the Cavaliers and led by just two points, 27-25, after one. Rajon Rondo, who finished with 20 points and eight assists, had 12 points but no assists in the first quarter.
Pierce began his shooting barrage in the first quarter, hitting a pair of threes. He added one more in the second quarter as the Celtics slowly began to add to their lead, taking a 54-46 lead to the locker room at the half.
Pierce came out on fire in the third quarter, hitting all four threes as part of his 17-point third quarter. The Celtics led 80-60 late in the third but Kyrie Irving scored nine straight points and the Cavaliers ended the third on a 12-2 run that closed the lead to 82-72 after three. The Boston meltdown continued at the start of the fourth as Tyler Zeller converted a three-point play with just over eight minutes left to make it 82-80.
After a Zeller jumper made it 86-82 Celtics, Pierce came down and hit a free-throw line jumper to put the Celtics and had a chance to extend on the next possession but he missed his first three of the night and Zeller answered to cut it to 88-84. Jason Terry intercepted an inbounds pass and went in for a layup and then Rondo hit a jumper to extend Boston's lead to 92-84 with under five minutes left. Pierce hit a pair of free throws with 4:30 left to put Boston ahead, 94-84.
Collins finished with just one point in 23 minutes before fouling out with three minutes left while Terry was 3-for-5 from long range and finished with 15 points. The Celtics finished 8-for-13 from 3-point distance.
The Celtics are off Thursday before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden Friday night. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
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