Payton scores 15, reaches 20,000 for his career

BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce left the Portland Trail Blazers
feeling the pain of a last-second loss.

Pierce returned from taking a hit in the mouth in the final
minute to make a 17-foot fallaway jumper as time expired that gave
the Boston Celtics a 90-88 victory over the Trail Blazers on
Wednesday night.

Pierce played with a mouth guard following seven hours of dental
surgery Monday after being hit with an elbow in Saturday's game at
New York. He was down after getting hit in the mouth during a
battle for a rebound with 34 seconds left against Portland.

But after slowly walking over to the bench with the trainer
during a timeout, Pierce came back out for the final possession.

"I got poked in the eye (too)," Pierce said. "I took a bit of
a beating there at the end, but paid them back."

Gary Payton scored 15 points for Boston and became the 29th
player in NBA history to reach 20,000. It was the first home win
for coach Doc Rivers.

Zach Randolph of the Trail Blazers hit the second of two free
throws to tie it at 88 with 19 seconds left. Celtics guard Ricky
Davis gave the ball to Pierce at the top of the key. Pierce then
motioned for his teammates to clear out before hitting the
game-winner from the left side.

"If I was new to the league I'd be surprised," Boston center
Mark Blount said. "That's what he does. That's why I walked off
the floor when he took the shot."

Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points and Raef LaFrentz had 18
points and 10 rebounds.

"I wasn't sure what kind of vision he had," LaFrentz said.
"He got hit pretty hard in the face."

Randolph led the Trail Blazers with 22 points and eight
rebounds, while Darius Miles had 21 points, 14 in the fourth

Portland lost its first game of a three-game road trip when
Toronto's Vince Carter nailed a 3-pointer late in a 101-97 loss.

"A heartbreaker tonight," Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks
said. "Another great player made another great shot to beat us."

Portland rallied from a 20-point first-half deficit before
falling to its third straight road loss.

"I can't do much when a guy hits a fadeaway jump shot," said
Ruben Patterson, who was guarding Pierce. "I tried to play him
head up, but there is nothing you can do about that."

Rivers didn't think Pierce would be back in the game until the
very end of the timeout.

"Up until the referees blowing the whistle, Paul didn't think
he was going back in. He hadn't opened his eye yet," Rivers said.

LaFrentz's free throw gave Boston an 88-87 lead with 1:37 to go.

After Patterson's basket gave the Trail Blazers a 79-77 edge
with 5:30 to play, Payton hit a 3-pointer with 5:01 left to give
him 20,000 career points.

"I'm just fortunate to be there, to be able to have an
opportunity to go to 20,000 points," Payton said.

Payton was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers during the
offseason, but took a little over three months before deciding to
accept the trade.

Payton became the fourth player to reach the mark with the
Celtics joining Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Robert Parish and John

Patterson's short jumper with 8:12 to go gave Portland its first
lead of the game, 74-73.

Boston, which led 53-33 at halftime, went cold in the third
quarter, going 5-of-17 as the Trail Blazers got within 71-64 after
three quarters.

Game notes
Boston's Kendrick Perkins turned 20 on Wednesday. ... The
Trail Blazers' 22 first-quarter points nearly matched their entire
second half of a night earlier when they scored 28 in a 64-60 loss
at New Jersey.


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