Celtics take control early

CHICAGO --- Paul Pierce took the initiative and the Boston Celtics took control.


Pierce scored 24 points, Rajon Rondo added 20 and the defending champions beat the Chicago Bulls 107-86 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

The teams split two dramatic games in Boston, but this one never really was in doubt. The Celtics led by 11 after one quarter and 22 at the half on their way to an easy win.

Now, Boston is in good shape heading into Game 4 on Sunday even though the injured Kevin Garnett is wearing a suit instead of a uniform these days.

Rondo looked just fine after spraining his right ankle in Game 2 and missing practice Tuesday, turning in another dominant postseason performance.

Besides hitting eight of 15 shots, he had 11 rebounds and six assists. He's now averaging 22.7 points, 9.7 assists and 10.7 rebounds in the series.


In Dallas, Erick Dampier never messed with Tony Parker. He didn't have to.

Instead of delivering his guaranteed hard foul, Dampier and Dallas slapped around San Antonio with tight defense, the return of Dirk Nowitzki's shooting touch and the energy of their home crowd, turning it into an easy victory and a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.

Dampier drew the scrutiny of the league office for saying he would pop Parker on his first drive of this game.

Dampier ended up going the whole game without colliding with Parker.

San Antonio finished with its fewest points in a playoff game, while it was the fewest Dallas ever allowed in the postseason.

MASCOT GROUNDED: "Spirit," the hawk who delayed the Atlanta Hawks' playoff loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night by flying around Philips Arena instead of returning to his handler, won't take flight when the playoff series returns to Atlanta next week.

The Hawks said Thursday night the mascot will "be involved in our game night activities," but team spokesman Arthur Triche said the bird will no longer be allowed to fly around the arena.


SALT LAKE CITY --- Deron Williams hit a fadeaway jumper with 2.2 seconds left to give Utah an 88-86 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, getting the Jazz back into the first-round playoff series.

Carlos Boozer tied a franchise playoff record with 22 rebounds and scored 23 points as the Jazz pulled within 2-1 in the series. Game 4 is Saturday night in Utah.

Williams finished with 13 points and nine assists, winning it with only his third field goal of the night.

The Lakers had a chance to win, but Kobe Bryant's 3-pointer at the buzzer was way off and the Jazz celebrated their first win of the postseason.

Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Bryant scored 18 despite going just 5-for-24 from the floor.



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