Pierce helps Celtics avoid third straight loss

BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce finally got his long-range touch back.

Paul Pierce, right, dominated the Timberwolves inside and outside.
Paul Pierce, right, dominated the Timberwolves inside and outside.

Pierce scored 42 points -- four shy of his season high -- and

grabbed 14 rebounds as the Boston Celtics bounced back from a pair

of bad losses with a 108-99 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

"There's not much I can say about my shooting lately,'' said

Pierce, who was 2-of-20 from 3-point range over the previous five

games. "It's a little drought I'm going through, but I've just got

to keep shooting. I was just aggressive tonight and wanted to get

to the line.''

Pierce was 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 16-of-18 at the line.

He also had four assists and four steals.

"Paul was spectacular and it was a real gutsy win for us,''

Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said. "He came back with a superb

effort. He has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and he

knows it.''

The Celtics, who had dropped consecutive games to Chicago and

Miami, avoided losing three straight for the first time this

season. The victory also snapped Boston's four-game home losing

streak against Minnesota.

Minnesota lost for the third time in four games and had

back-to-back losses for the first time since dropping three

straight from Nov. 9-13.

With the game tied at 88 midway through the fourth quarter,

Pierce and Antoine Walker took over. The Celtics went on a 11-6 run

on a pair of 3-pointers by Pierce, one from Walker and a pair of

free throws from each.

Kevin Garnett, who led the Timberwolves with 27 points, and

Boston's Shammond Williams traded free throws before Pierce put the

game out of reach with a long jumper from just inside the 3-point

line to make it 104-95.

"Like (Allen) Iverson, he got into a rhythm,'' Garnett said.

"He got hot and he never looked back.''

Iverson scored 41 points in Philadelphia's 99-94 victory over

the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Pierce had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the first half as the

Celtics held a 63-55 lead.

"He (Pierce) got in a rhythm tonight,'' Minnesota coach Flip

Saunders said. "We couldn't get help quick enough. He's strong and

he has the ability to do both -- shoot from the perimeter and take

it to the basket.''

Walker finished with 13 points and is five shy of 10,000 for his

career. He will be the 12th player in franchise history to score

10,000 in a Celtics uniform.

Rasho Nesterovic had 19 points and 13 rebounds while Troy Hudson

added 16 points and seven assists.

Game notes

Pierce scored 46 against New York on Nov. 2. His

career-high is 48. ... Garnett leads the league with 22

double-doubles. He had 59 last season. Pierce recorded his 10th

double-double after having 17 last season. ... Walker entered the

game first in the league in minutes per game (43.2). He played 41.

... Pierce went over the 2,000-rebound mark for his career. ...

Tony Battie started despite missing the second half of Wednesday's

game with the flu. ... Six of Boston's nine losses have come

against sub-.500 teams. ... The last time the Celtics defeated the

Timberwolves at the FleetCenter was Jan. 2, 1998. ... Garnett and

Williams are first cousins.