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Celtics 89, Hornets 77

Celtics swarm Hornets in fourth

They triumph over one of West's best

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / February 12, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS - This time, the Celtics were on the right end of a late collapse against a Western Conference power.

After struggling down the stretch in losses to the Lakers and Spurs over the last week, the Celtics stepped up their play in the fourth quarter last night to beat the Hornets, 89-77, at New Orleans Arena.

Boston got a game-high 30 points from Paul Pierce (15 in the first quarter) and outscored New Orleans, 25-13, in the fourth.

"We learned from our mistakes," Pierce said.

Ray Allen injures thumb, but he'll try to play tonight at Dallas. C2

"It was all about our execution, especially in the fourth quarter. We defended at a higher level in the fourth. And those are the two things we have to do, especially in the first game of a road trip. You've got to get off to a good start."

The teams entered the fourth quarter knotted at 64. The Celtics opened the fourth with 15-3 run to take a 79-67 lead with 7:26 remaining. Leon Powe's dunk over Hilton Armstrong (14 points) gave Boston an 83-73 lead with 5:03 left. Boston went up by as many as 14 points en route to the win.

"We stuck with one play and it was working and we just milked it," said Pierce.

Hornets forward David West, who had team highs of 15 points and eight rebounds, said, "We were in the game. I don't think either team was shooting particularly well. That stretch in the fourth quarter killed us. They took the momentum from us and we weren't able to get back into the game."

Eddie House scored 8 points in the fourth and Powe had 7. The Celtics, who have won eight straight road games, shot 51.9 percent in the quarter and dished out eight assists. The Hornets, meanwhile, shot 31.3 percent in the fourth, allowed 7 points off six turnovers, and got only 2 points from All-Star guard Chris Paul.

"In the fourth quarter, they couldn't get a stop," said House, who had 12 points overall, including two 3-pointers. "That was a big key for us."

Powe, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds, said, "We picked up our intensity on defense. It's hard for them to get deep in the post. It was hard for them to get offensive rebounds. I think we rebounded well, picked up our defensive pressure, and executed on offense."

The Celtics, who already were without reserve guard Tony Allen because of a left thumb injury, lost Ray Allen to a hyperextended right thumb when it got caught in Kendrick Perkins's jersey in the first quarter. X-rays at halftime were negative, and Allen hopes to play tonight in Dallas. Allen finished with 1 point and missed all three of his shots from the field in 19 minutes.

"It was a big win," Allen said. "I came and watched it in the [locker room] and Eddie made some big shots. Leon made some big plays down the stretch. Defensively, we looked pretty solid."

Pierce said, "We are going down every other minute, it seems like."

Paul finished with 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting and five assists in 31 minutes in his first game back after missing four with a groin strain. The Hornets were without center Tyson Chandler (ankle) and guard Mo Peterson (foot), both starters.

"I wanted to make sure [Paul] didn't get too many minutes tonight," said Hornets coach Byron Scott. "It always scares me when I see him on the bench and they're putting an ice pack on the same area that he hurt."

Pierce shot 10 of 19 from the field and made 10 of 12 free throws in 43 minutes. Rajon Rondo added a game-high 11 assists and Kevin Garnett had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics shot 44.3 percent overall and missed 12 of 14 3-pointers, but were aided by nine steals and 38 points in the paint.

New Orleans shot 40.6 percent overall, missed 9 of 11 3-pointers, had no second-chance points, and allowed 15 points off 18 turnovers.

"It was a gutsy win for us," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We were down [Brian Scalabrine], down Tony Allen, and down Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett was in foul trouble.

"Rondo and Eddie played great. I thought Leon was great tonight as well."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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