Pierce powers Celtics

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INDIANAPOLIS — Paul Pierce scored 24 points to help the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 86-72 on Saturday night.

Indiana's Danny Granger (right) tries to tie up Boston's Paul Pierce in the second half of the Celtics' 86-72 victory Saturday. Pierce had 24 points to lead the Celtics.  MICHAEL CONROY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MICHAEL CONROY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Indiana's Danny Granger (right) tries to tie up Boston's Paul Pierce in the second half of the Celtics' 86-72 victory Saturday. Pierce had 24 points to lead the Celtics.

Ray Allen added 19 points, Kevin Garnett scored 15 and Rajon Rondo had 12 assists for the Celtics. Boston snapped a two-game skid and remained ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the Atlantic Division.

Danny Granger scored 20 points, David West had 16 and Roy Hibbert added nine points and 17 rebounds for Indiana.

The Pacers had won four in a row and had scored more than 100 points in five consecutive games, but they matched their lowest point total of the season against Boston. Indiana shot 35 percent from the field, made just 5 of 22 3-pointers and committed 19 turnovers.

The possible first-round playoff opponents split their season series, winning two games apiece.

The Pacers were coming off a home win against Oklahoma City on Friday night, but looked tired against the Celtics.

Boston took a 22-19 lead, then held the Pacers scoreless for the next 7:23 to take a 36-19 lead.

Boston led 43-33 at halftime.

The Pacers shot just 3 for 19 in the second quarter, but hung tough because they only allowed Boston to shoot 30 percent.

The Pacers just missed their low half of the season, which was 29 points in the second half against Chicago on March 5. Boston rookie Greg Stiemsma had 10 points, five rebounds and five blocks in the first half.

Pierce hit a 3-pointer, then a pull-up jumper to extend Boston’s lead to 15 points.

Granger made a 3-pointer and Leandro Barbosa made a layup to cut Boston’s lead to 55-48, but the Celtics held on and led 59-51 at the end of the quarter. Pierce scored 13 points in the third period.

Boston led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter. Indiana tried to make a late surge, and a 3-pointer by Granger cut Boston’s lead to 74-65.

Allen hit a 3-pointer at the other end a few seconds later to stop Indiana’s momentum.

BOBCATS: Charlotte forward Eduardo Najera didn’t suffer any brain trauma after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head from Milwaukee’s John Brockman during Friday night’s 95-90 loss.

Najera had a CT scan at a hospital that showed Najera suffered a fractured frontal bone. He accompanied his teammates on a flight back to Charlotte on Saturday morning after leaving the hospital, according to team spokesman B.J. Evans.

Brockman visited Najera at the hospital. After the game, Bobcats coach Paul Silas called the injury “bad, real bad.”

Najera was not expected to play when the Bobcats played host to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.


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