Pierce scores 32 for Celtics


BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce kept hitting free throws, Marcus Banks
kept stealing the ball and the Boston Celtics moved up a notch in
the playoff race.

Pierce capped a 32-point night by scoring the last five points
to help Boston beat Golden State 111-106 on Friday night and tie
New York for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

"We didn't lose our composure down the stretch when they came
back," said Pierce, who took a career-high 23 free throws and made

Banks, a rookie first-round draft choice, had seven steals, two
fewer than the club record held by Pierce and Larry Bird.

"I told him his contribution, the 17 minutes, were the best
minutes he played as a Celtic," Boston coach John Carroll said.

The Celtics never trailed but squandered a 50-32 lead midway
through the second quarter, letting the Warriors tie it at 106 on
Jason Richardson's 3-pointer with 54 seconds left.

"I don't think we were ready the first half," Richardson said.
"In the second half we came together."

But the Warriors didn't score again as Pierce hit a jumper with
46 seconds to. Brian Cardinal missed a 3-pointer and Richardson
missed the followup for Golden State. Pierce sank two more free
throws with 20 seconds remaining.

Jiri Welsch then stripped Avery Johnson of the ball under Golden
State's basket with 15 seconds to play, and Pierce hit one of two
free throws to end the scoring.

The win moved Boston into a tie with New York -- a 108-83 loser
to New Jersey -- for seventh place.

The Warriors played without Erick Dampier, the NBA's fourth
leading rebounder, who had a sprained left ankle.

"Even without Dampier they cause you a lot of problems because
they can space the floor, they have shooters and they have very,
very good one-on-one players," Carroll said.

The Warriors were led by Richardson with 25 points and 11
rebounds and Cardinal with 23 points. But Richardson scored only
three points in the first half on a 3-pointer with 1:01 left.

"Some games are like that. You can't explain," Richardson

Welsch and Ricky Davis each had 15 points as seven Celtics
scored in double figures.

"If (Pierce) gets support like he did tonight," Welsch said,
"that's the best thing that can happen for our team."

Pierce set a team record by taking 20 free throws in the second
half, five more than the previous mark held by John Havlicek and
Nate Archibald.

"Boston shot well from the field and did a great job of getting
to the free-throw line," Golden State coach Eric Musselman said.

The Celtics led 84-82 after the third quarter then scored the
first 10 points of the fourth to increase the lead to 94-82. Banks
and Pierce each had five points in the run.

Then Golden State came back, cutting it to 100-97 on a 3-pointer
by Cardinal with 5:43 remaining. The lead ranged from three to
seven points before Richardson tied the game at 106.

Boston led 62-48 at halftime and 76-64 with 5:40 left in the
third quarter. But Golden State scored the next seven points to
start a 15-3 run that cut the lead to 80-79.

The Celtics hit 61 percent of their shots in the first half and
outscored the Warriors 30-12 in the paint. That was a huge
improvement over Boston's previous game Wednesday night, a 105-98
loss to Portland in which the Trail Blazers hit 61 percent of their
shots and outscored the Celtics 64-34 in the paint.

Game notes
For the fourth time in their last five games, the Celtics
faced a team that had a key player sidelined. Two of those were
against New Jersey, which was missing Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin,
and the other was against Philadelphia, which was without Allen
Iverson. ... The Warriors lost for just the second time in 10
games. The Celtics are 4-1 in their last five.