BOSTON (AP) — Paul Pierce scored 25 of his season-high 40 points in the second half, carrying the Boston Celtics to a 103-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Pierce made 10 of 11 shots from the floor after halftime, hitting his first eight — including his initial three 3-point attempts. He finished 13 of 16 from the field.
Rajon Rondo added 20 points and eight assists for the Celtics, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Jason Terry had 15 points and Kevin Garnett 12.
Kyrie Irving paced Cleveland with 22 points.
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao, the league’s leading rebounder, missed the game with a bruised right knee after he was hurt in Tuesday’s home loss to Toronto. Tyler Zeller got his first career start and had 20 points for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers lost their fifth straight and fell to 2-14 on the road.
Boston pushed the lead to 80-60 late in the third quarter, but the Cavaliers went on a 20-2 run spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth, closing to 82-80 on Zeller’s three-point play 3 minutes into the final quarter.
Rondo’s long jumper then started a game-breaking 14-4 run. Pierce, who nailed two jumpers and two free throws in the spurt, finally missed his first shot of the second half — a 3-point attempt from the top with 6:15 to play — after going 8 for 8 from the floor.
Pierce’s fadeaway in the lane made it 96-84 with 3:59 remaining.
The Celtics held an eight-point lead at the half and used an offensive outburst by Pierce to open their 20-point advantage. The team captain scored Boston’s initial five points, nailing a 3-pointer to make it 59-51 early in the quarter. After the teams traded baskets, Pierce scored all of the points in a 12-2 run over the ensuing 3:37, capping it with consecutive 3s from nearly the same spot on the left wing 63 seconds apart to make it 75-57.
Following two free throws by Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, Jason Terry nailed a 3 from the right corner, pushing Boston ahead 78-59 with 4:18 left in the quarter. Terry’s jumper made it 80-60 with 3:33 left. Pierce, who was replaced with just under 4 minutes left in the quarter and left to a loud ovation, went 7 for 7 from the floor in the quarter.
After Pierce and Garnett went to the bench, Cleveland scored 12 of the final 14 points in the third, pulling to 82-72 heading into the fourth. Irving scored the final seven points of the quarter.
Boston led 27-25 after one and used an 8-0 run midway in the second en route to its 54-46 edge at halftime. Pierce nailed a 3 and hit two free throws in the run.
In the first half, the Celtics made 10 more free throws in 15 extra chances.
NOTES: Zeller was without a face mask for the first time since breaking his cheekbone in early November. … Boston coach Doc Rivers changed his starting lineup and inserted G Terry and F Jason Collins. Rivers said he wanted to get Terry in the starting lineup because “he needs to be on the floor with a point guard that can get him the ball.” Terry had just two shots in Boston’s loss at Chicago on Tuesday night, but hit a 3 on his first attempt early in the game. Rivers wanted Collins in there to limit Garnett from playing center the entire time he was on the floor. … The Celtics held a moment of silence before the National Anthem and showed all the names on the Jumbotron to remember the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. … The Celtics didn’t get home from Tuesday night’s game in Chicago until about 2 P.M. due to mechanical problems with their plane. … Cleveland’s only two road wins came in November, against the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.