The Celtics know what to do with the game on the line.
Pierce scored 31 points and hit a game-winning 17-footer with 20.9 seconds to play -- the last of three perfect plays down the stretch -- to lead the Celtics to a 115-111 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night.
"We thrive off execution," Pierce said. "Doc [Rivers] drew up the plays and we made sure we made the extra pass. It was a clear out for me and I just had to make sure I made the shot. Down the stretch, we took advantage of our strengths."
"We had a chance to make some big plays and made them," added Pierce, who was 12 of 14 from the field.
After blowing most of a 13-point lead early in the quarter, the Celtics ran three plays over the last 2:12 -- all involving Pierce.
He converted a three-point play off a jumper to give Boston a 108-105 lead.
The Nets tied the game on three free throws by Jarvis Hayes and then took their first lead at 111-108 on a 3-pointer by Carter with 1:14 to go.
After a time out, the Celtics ran a screen for Allen, who took a pass from Pierce and tied the game with a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go.
"It was a set play and there's nothing more to it," said Allen, who finished with 16 points. "I got open and hit the shot."
Devin Harris, who had 25 points and 11 assists for New Jersey, missed a floater with 45.6 seconds to go and that set the stage for Pierce's game winner.
The Celtics had trouble getting off a play and Rivers called a timeout with 25.5 seconds to go and 6 seconds left on the shot clock.
The ball was eventually inbounded and quickly given to Pierce on the left wing. He looked at the shot clock, started a move to the basket and then pulled up for a sweet jumper that ripped the net.
"It was a fake handoff from Rondo and we had Ray open in the corner, but we spread the floor for Paul," Rivers said. "Paul spins and the Nets defended it well, but Paul made a heck of a shot. I'm happy down the stretch that we executed our stuff. Paul finding Ray on that 3 and the trust he had in Ray was huge. We executed three plays in a row down the stretch and that's what you have to do to win games like this."
Carter, who was 13 of 21 from the field, got the call for the Nets after their timeout. He got the ball at the top of the key, drove down the right side of the lane and powered his way for a layup as the Celtics challenged him. His shot bounced off the rim and Kendrick Perkins got the rebound and was fouled.
"It was a shot I felt I could make," Carter said. "I didn't make it."
Allen iced the contest with two free throws with 7.5 seconds to play.
Rajon Rondo added 20 points as the Celtics shot 61.2 percent from the field in beating the Nets for the third time this season. Perkins had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
The game marked the return of outcast Knicks guard Stephon Marbury to the New York metropolitan area and the former local star -- and ex-New Jersey Net -- was booed every timed he touched the ball by the almost 16,000 fans at the Izod Center.
It was entertaining and Marbury even managed a couple of smiles despite having a shot blocked by Sean Williams and having a 3-pointer at the shot clock hit nothing but air.
When the game was on the line, it was in the hands of Pierce.
"They got what they wanted," Carter said. "Paul shot the ball unbelievable. Great teams do that. We are trying to develop that same mentality and I think we learned a lot tonight. We gave ourselves a chance to win. Defensively, we were in the right position but they just hit great shots."
Celtics star Kevin Garnett missed his sixth straight game with a strained right knee. Boston is (4-2) without him. ...Allen was 7-for-7 from the free-throw line ...Rivers wasn't happy with the officiating in the first half -- 17 personal fouls against Boston -- and got a technical for complaining to Bennett Salvatore about it. ... Marbury finished with no points on 0-for-2 from the field with four assists. The Celtics are now 19-0 when Rondo scores at least 18.
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