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NBA ROUNDUP Pierce's hot 3rd propels Celtics



Published: Mon, February 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The guard had a 15-point third quarter as Boston got back to the .500 mark.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MINNEAPOLIS -- Winning regularly requires consistent effort, a concept the Boston Celtics seem to have finally figured out.

Paul Pierce scored 32 points, including 15 in the third quarter, to lead the Celtics past the Timberwolves 103-100 on Sunday.

"I think we've been lackadaisical a lot of times," said Gary Payton, who added 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting.

"A lot of guys have not been playing as hard as they should. And I think now we're playing together."

Ricky Davis had 12 points for Boston, which won its third consecutive game and improved to 24-24.

That's the same mark Minnesota has after losing its fifth straight.

"It's amazing," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We're at .500 and ecstatic, and the Timberwolves are at .500 and think that the world is crumbling in around them."

Minnesota had the ball last with a chance to tie, but Sam Cassell's contested 3-pointer from 29 feet at the buzzer came up well short of the rim -- allowing the Celtics to raise their road record to 8-16.

Rockets 103, Lakers 102

HOUSTON -- Yao Ming scored 23 points, including the winning free throws with 15.2 seconds left, to lead the Rockets.

Tracy McGrady had 21 points and Bob Sura had 19 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and five steals for the Rockets, who have won four straight and eight of their last 10.

Los Angeles forward Brian Cook missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds to play.

Lamar Odom scored 14 of his 22 points in the final period and Chucky Atkins added 21 for the Lakers, who came up just short in their bid to win their first game under interim coach Frank Hamblen.

Mavericks 122, Raptors 113

TORONTO -- Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points to help the Mavericks outlast the Raptors. Dallas led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, but the Raptors cut it four before Jason Terry's 3-pointer gave the Mavericks a seven-point lead with 36 seconds left.

Michael Finley added 23 points for the Mavericks.

Chris Bosh had a career-high 29 points for the Raptors and Jalen Rose added 22.

76ers 106, Clippers 104

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson scored 28 points, including the winning free throws with 1:01 to play, to lead the 76ers.

Neither team had much of a cushion in the final quarter, leading to a thrilling final few minutes and giving the sparse home crowd something to cheer about other than the Philadelphia Eagles' appearance in the Super Bowl a few hours later.

Iverson put the Sixers ahead 104-101 on a 3-pointer with 1:44 left only to have Booby Simmons of the Clippers answer with a three-point play.

Iverson was fouled on the next possession by Elton Brand and made the go-ahead free throws, turning the attention of a rabid Eagles crowd back to the Sixers.




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