28-22, 11-13 Away
21-28, 10-12 Home

Pierce injures groin as Celtics hang on to win

SEATTLE (AP) -- Boston power forward Vin Baker shrugged off the
boos in his return to Seattle. He'd heard them all before, and walked off a winner.

"I got quite a few boos, but I think I heard worse when I was
here,'' Baker said after the Celtics beat the Sonics 82-76 on
Tuesday night. "I'm just excited that our team came out and played
the way we did and got the victory.''

Antoine Walker had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who let a big lead slip away before prevailing.

Baker had nine points and three rebounds in 16 minutes off the

"Fans are going to be fans,'' said Baker, a four-time All-Star
whose lack of productivity in Seattle led to his trade to the
Celtics last July. "I don't hold any grudges against the fans of
Seattle or the organization. I had some very good years here, but
things didn't work out.''

After trailing by 23 points early in the third quarter, the
Sonics closed to 71-70 on Rashard Lewis' three-point play with 3:13
left. But Boston scored 11 of the game's final 17 points to hand
Seattle its fourth straight defeat.

The Sonics' Gary Payton, coming off his ninth All-Star game, got
his team back in the game in the fourth quarter with 12 of his 23 points.

The Celtics beat the Sonics by 40 points in Boston last
Wednesday night, and a similar result looked possible as Boston
held a 55-33 lead at halftime.

The Celtics lost Paul Pierce, their leading scorer, to a mild
right groin strain with 4:35 left in the first half. He was not on
the bench in the second half, although the injury was not
considered serious.

Boston was leading 46-26 at the time of the injury. Pierce had
14 points in 16 minutes.

Boston coach Jim O'Brien missed Pierce down the stretch.

"I'd say we dramatically missed him,'' O'Brien said. "He's an
All-Star. But it worked out for us.''

O'Brien was happy for Baker, who missed the first Sonics-Celtics
game six days ago because of heart palpitations that hospitalized
him for two nights.

"I thought he played great,'' O'Brien said. "He was very
focused. I thought it was one of his better games.''

After the Sonics pulled within a point, the Celtics got a pair
of free throws from McCarty and a short jump hook by Walker before
Vitaly Potapenko made a layup for Seattle with 2:01 left to make the score 75-72.

But Walker had another short jump hook with 1:44 on the clock.

Walker, Boston's other All-Star, said he expected the Sonics to
come after the Celtics in the second half.

"It's tough to hold the home team off for four quarters,'' he
said. "We had a 20-point lead, but they made a great run. But I
think we're a mentally tough team.''

The Celtics scored only three baskets in the third quarter,
getting outscored 15-7 as the Sonics closed to 62-48 on a layup by
Predrag Drobnjak as time expired. They were ahead 58-31 early in
the period.

The Celtics led 55-33 at halftime after the Sonics shot 3-for-16
in the second quarter.

After the teams were tied at 12 with 7:07 to go in the first
quarter, Boston outscored the Sonics 17-6 in the rest of the period
to take a 29-20 lead.

Baker entered the game with 3:50 left in the first quarter and
the Celtics ahead 21-14.

The Celtics took a 43-23 lead in the first half of the second
quarter, with Baker contributing a three-point play in the first
minute. The Celtics' bench jumped up and cheered their teammate.

Rookie power forward Reggie Evans came within one of his career
high with 16 rebounds as the Sonics outrebounded Boston 50-40.

Sonics coach Nate McMillan said he didn't like what he saw in
the first half.

"There was absolutely no defense in the first half again,'' he
said. "Their All-Stars (Pierce and Walker) took advantage of the
single coverage and scored and some perimeter guys made some

Game notes
The Celtics said Pierce's injury would be evaluated
Wednesday and he was considered day-to-day. ... Sonics coach Nate
McMillan said he hopes to have F Vladimir Radmanovic (sprained left
ankle) back for Friday night's game at Sacramento. Radmanovic has
been on the injured list since Jan. 28. ... Celtics C Tony Battie
missed the game for personal reasons. He will rejoin the Celtics
Thursday night in Portland.

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