Celtics snap out of funk to top Clippers

BOSTON (AP) -- This time, Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce made
sure they didn't give up the lead down the stretch.

Walker scored 27 points and Pierce added 24 as the Boston
Celtics ended a three-game losing streak with a 104-91 victory over
the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

"We've been on a little slide," Pierce said. "This was a very
important game for us. Our goal is to win the next two games before
the All-Star break and build some momentum going into the second
half of the season."

Boston defeated the Clippers for the fifth straight time at home
and avoided matching its season-high four-game losing streak. Los
Angeles dropped its second straight game and hasn't won in Boston
since the 1996-97 season.

The Celtics, who have blown fourth-quarter leads against Toronto
and Minnesota in the past week, went on a 12-4 run to start the
fourth quarter to take a 93-82 lead. Walter McCarty had two
3-pointers in the spurt and Walker capped it with a basket inside.

After the Clippers cut the deficit to eight points on a jumper
by Darius Miles and a free throw from Quentin Richardson, Walker
scored two baskets to push the lead to 12 with 4:55 left.

"We didn't have an answer for Walker and Pierce," Clippers
coach Alvin Gentry said. "But then again, a lot of teams don't
have an answer for those two guys."

The Clippers, already without Lamar Odom (wrist) for the next
month, played without leading scorer Elton Brand because of a
bruised left hip he re-aggravated against San Antonio last week.
They also got into Boston at 2 a.m. on Sunday after taking a flight
from Atlanta.

Brand warmed up before the game but decided against playing because "the explosiveness wasn't there. I couldn't jump."

Brand, who will have his high school jersey retired in a ceremony Monday night in Peekskill, N.Y., will test his hip again at the morning shootaround before the Clippers play Tuesday against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Michael Olowokandi led Los Angeles with 27 points and 15
rebounds. Jeff McInnis and Quentin Richardson added 14 points

"We got in late, but it wasn't an excuse," McInnis said.
"They just beat us tonight. McCarty hit some big 3s and their role
players came up big early and then their big guys took over late in
the game."

The Celtics took their largest lead of the first half, 51-43,
when McCarty hit a 3-pointer with 3:15 remaining. Corey Maggette's
3-pointer with five seconds left in the half cut the deficit to

Erick Strickland added 16 points for the Celtics while McCarty
finished with 12, all coming on 3-pointers. Tony Battie had 13
points and 13 rebounds.

"Our bench really was the story of the game," Celtics coach
Jim O'Brien said. "We got a great lift out of them."

Game notes
Maggette returned after missing the last two games with a
strained left knee and was in the starting lineup. ... The Celtics
and the Clippers are the two youngest teams in the league. ...
Strickland played despite injuring his spine Friday against
Minnesota. ... Walker bruised both of his elbows after getting
tangled up with Olowokandi, but returned to the game. ... Vitaly
Potopenko is the only player in the NBA with at least 100 in each
category to have more offensive than defensive rebounds. ... Brand
had played in all 48 games this season.

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