Pierce has best game of the season in Celtics win

Posted Jan. 22, 2012, at 7:52 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Boston Celtics were missing one of their star guards when the game started, and then lost another in the second quarter.

The way Paul Pierce was playing, it didn’t matter.

Pierce had season highs with 34 points and 10 assists and tied his season best with eight rebounds to lead the Celtics to a 100-94 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

“Paul carried us,” said Ray Allen, who left after jamming his left ankle in the first half. “He played great for us. The team, everybody rallied behind him.”

Boston started without point guard Rajon Rondo, out for the second straight game with a sprained right wrist, and Allen left after being fouled by Jan Vesely with about 6½ minutes left in the second quarter.

Pierce — who had scored a total of 20 points in the previous two games — made up for their absence, going 10 for 15 from the floor and 12 of 15 from the line. His three steals were also a season high.

“I’m one of our, if not our main scorer on this ballclub,” Pierce said. “That’s my role. I haven’t been doing a good job of it lately, but a lot of that has to do with just being in game shape, getting my legs stronger, being able to get up and down and jump.”

John Wall had 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Wizards. Nick Young scored 19 points, and JaVale McGee added 13, but they had no answer for Pierce.

“It’s tough. The last five minutes we were right there,” Wall said. “We’ve got to execute down the stretch.”

Pierce was at his best right after the Celtics let a 15-point third-quarter lead slip away.

Washington tied the game at 75 with 9½ minutes left on a fast-break alley-oop for a dunk from Wall to Trevor Booker, and the Wizards seemed to have the momentum. Pierce scored Boston’s next 10 points, countering Washington’s surge.

Pierce capped his 10-point run after the Wizards took an 84-83 lead with six minutes to go on Young’s three-point play. Pierce hit a jumper to get the lead back, and the Celtics did not trail the rest of the way.

“At the end of the day, your big players have to step up and play well for you to win, especially games when you have guys out,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “And Paul did everything.”

Pierce scored 14 of Boston’s final 25 points. Kevin Garnett scored five of his 17 points in the final two minutes, including an emphatic dunk down the lane with two minutes left to give Boston a 95-90 lead which effectively ended the Wizards’ chances.

“We got ahead because we defended, got ahead and ran, and we moved the ball offensively,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said. “Then all of a sudden we got ahead and the ball had Velcro.”

Half of Boston’s six wins this season have come against the Wizards, who have the league’s worst record at 2-14.

Washington has some reason for optimism despite a two-game losing streak. On Wednesday, the Wizards got their second win of the season, and the past two losses were both close until the end.

“Ten days ago we weren’t competing at a high level,” Saunders said. “We’ve gotten to the point now we’re competing at a high level. Now we’ve got to find a way to close out these games.”

NOTES: Allen said he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play Monday against Orlando. “I definitely won’t rule myself out,” he said. … Rivers said the team wanted to be cautious with Rondo’s injury. “He’s close, but we’ve just got to get it right,” Rivers said before the game. … G Keyon Dooling (sore left knee) was out for the sixth straight game, and F/C Chris Wilcox (sore left calf) missed his fifth straight game. … Before the game, Saunders said he’d talked with starting F Andray Blatche about the boos Blatche has heard from the home fans in recent games. Saunders said he wouldn’t consider changing his lineup based on the jeers Blatche has gotten. “He’s a big boy. He can deal with it,” Saunders said. “We’re not going to make a decision whether he starts or not based on what the fan reaction is.” With a large number of Celtics fans in the Verizon Center on Sunday, the boos were muted when Blatche’s name was announced before the game.

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