Pierce comeback stirs Celtics


BOSTON, February 17- Paul Pierce rebounded from one of his worst NBA games to score 31 points and power the Boston Celtics past New Jersey 94-80 on Wednesday.

Kevin Garnett added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Ray Allen contributed 12 points as Boston improved to 40-14, the best record in the Eastern Conference entering the NBA All-Star Game break by percentage points over the Miami Heat.

"You would hate to go into the weekend, trying to have fun, on a loss," Pierce said. "This is a really emotional team. If we had lost, it probably wouldn’t have been a fun weekend."

Pierce went 0-for-10 from the field and produced only one point for the Celtics in a victory on Sunday over Miami, but contributed seven points in a run of 16 in a row by the Celtics late in the fourth quarter to break open what had been a tight contest.

"Great players, they just don’t have a lot of back-to-back bad games," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Pierce had never had a full game in which he failed to score at least two points and only once in his life had he missed more shots without hitting at least one basket.

He blamed minor soreness in his left foot and right hand as contributing factors in the earlier struggles but showed no sign of problems against the Nets.

"It definitely bothers me when I know I’m not right, but as a scorer, you always forget that type of game," Pierce said. "As a scorer, you have to forget your last shot, especially if you miss it – something was wrong with the rim or the ball."

Brook Lopez scored 18 points and Devin Harris added 16 for the Nets, who managed only two free throws over the final 6:17 of the game and produced only 10 points in the entire fourth quarter.

"We just didn’t score from that point," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "Their defense just clamped down on us."