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Coming off a tough loss to the new-look Orlando Magic on Christmas Day to break their 14-game winning streak, the Celtics hit the court Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. Playing without point guard Rajon Rondo, the Celtics were just fine and used a strong fourth quarter to roll past the Pacers 95-83.
Paul Pierce led the way for the Green with 21 points, five rebounds, and seven assists, while Ray Allen added 17 points on 7-11 shooting. Kevin Garnett pitched in 11 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and a blocked shot to help spearhead a solid team defensive effort, as they held the Pacers to just 37% shooting.
Indiana led for most of the first three quarters, but the Celtics closed the gap to end the third and took off in the fourth. They outscored the Pacers 29-16 in the last frame and held them to just 26% shooting.
“We just kept playing defense,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the game. “Then all of a sudden, our shots started falling and our defense stayed.”
Glen Davis (14 points, 4 rebounds) and former Pacer Marquis Daniels (12 points, 5 rebounds) were among the bench players that had a hand in the comeback. When Davis was on the floor, the C’s outscored the opposition by 23 points (Daniels checked in at a +17), and the Celts built their fourth quarter lead with Pierce, Garnett, and Shaquille O’Neal all out of the game. Shaq finished with nine points and two blocks before fouling out.
Brandon Rush led the Pacers with 17 points and 7 rebounds. Danny Granger was off all game, and finished with 15 points on 5-21 shooting (0-6 from downtown) as he and the Pacers just fizzled down the stretch.
Indiana could not capitalize on a Celtics squad without Rondo, who missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle. Nate Robinson filled in with an 8-point effort, but later had a nasty collision with Mike Dunleavy. Both players needed stitches after the game.
The Celtics next take on the Pistons on Wednesday night.