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Celtics limit Cavs to just nine fourth-quarter points

12/22/2002

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Paul Pierce put some fight into the Boston Celtics, and Antoine Walker finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Walker scored 23 points to help the Celtics overcome the ejection of Pierce and a 19-point deficit in an 89-82 victory Saturday night.

"When Paul went out, coach called a lot of plays for me,'' Walker said. "We came alive and played defense the way we're supposed to.''

Cleveland shot just 1-for-17 in the fourth quarter, and Walker scored six consecutive points to turn an 80-79 deficit into an 85-82 lead with 40 seconds to play.

Pierce and Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas were ejected for fighting with 11:15 remaining.

"What it did was give us a little bit of fire,'' said Pierce, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds. "I just felt the foul was excessive. I let my emotions take over.''

Ilgauskas blocked a shot by Pierce, who was hit in the face by both the ball and Ilgauskas' hand. Pierce, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds, whirled around and pushed Ilgauskas, who then lunged at the Celtics' forward.

"I tried to make a play, he got upset, pushed me and it escalated from there,'' said Ilgauskas, who had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Pierce was examined by Cavaliers doctors, who said he had a scratched right cornea but is not expected to miss any playing time.

Rookie Dajuan Wagner scored 25 points and Ricky Davis had 21 to lead the Cavs, who did not make a field goal over a 10:07 span of the third and fourth quarters.

"For a coach, this is the worst way to lose,'' Cavaliers coach
John Lucas said. "I'd rather lose by 30.''

The Celtics finally tied the score at 75 with 6:48 to play on a shot by Tony Battie and went ahead 27 seconds later when Battie made one of two free throws.

Carlos Boozer, who had made Cleveland's last field goal on a tip-in with 3:03 left in the third quarter, again put in a missed shot for a 77-76 lead with 4:56 to play.

"We play through 'Z' and without him it was tough,'' Wagner said. "And Boston got up for the challenge and played tough defense.''

Cleveland committed 13 of its 16 turnovers in the second half to lose for the fifth time in six games.

Davis, who had scored 40 or more points in three of his previous seven games, shot 0-for-2 in the fourth quarter.

"I think it all started with Tony Delk pressuring Davis,'' Walker said. "We just fed off that.''

The Cavaliers defended the 3-point shot much better. Cleveland entered the game with the worst defense in the league against 3-pointers, allowing foes to connect on 40 percent. Boston came in leading the league in 3-point efficiency, hitting an average of 9.5.

Walker went 0-for-10 on 3s, and Boston shot just 4-for-23 from beyond the arc. Tony Delk, second in the league in 3-point percentage, went 0-for-6.

The Cavs missed 13 of their first 15 shots as Boston opened an
18-7 lead.

Cleveland shot 14-of-22 from the field in the second quarter,
however, and led 53-42 at halftime.

The Cavs continued shooting well early in the third quarter.
Wagner hit consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 12-4 run that gave
Cleveland its a 19-point lead, 65-44.

"They are like a track meet,'' Walker said of the Cavs. "When
they get it at the defensive end, they'll be a very tough team.''

Game notes
Walker became the 12th player to score 10,000 points in a
Boston uniform when he made a layup 4:02 into the game to give
Boston a 16-5 lead. ... Boozer had 12 points and a career-high 14
rebounds, the eighth double-double for the rookie forward. ...
Pierce's double-double was his 11th, six short of his career high
set last season.