Paul Pierce scored 23 points, including an off-balance jumper as the shot clock expired with 24 seconds to play, giving the Celtics a six-game winning streak with an 87-84 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
The Celtics are playing at a much higher level than they were almost two weeks ago, when they dropped seven straight from Feb. 9-Feb. 27.
“We’re learning as we go how to win games down the stretch,” said Pierce. “That’s just a credit to everybody taking it upon themselves, realizing our mistakes. It’s crazy because it’s such a dramatic turnaround so fast. But you also have to credit that to the position we’re in, everybody’s pride. Everybody wants to make the playoffs.”
Boston, now tied with New York for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, will try to extend its winning streak against the banged-up Lakers.
Los Angeles opened a four-game road trip with an 88-83 loss at Utah on Monday night. Shaquille O’Neal got two quick technicals in the fourth quarter, leaving the Lakers even more shorthanded.
Initially, the Lakers thought Malone, Grant and Medvedenko would be able to play before Sunday’s game at Chicago, but all three may be out until next week. Bryant may be sidelined for up to a month after re-injuring his surgically repaired right shoulder.
“It’s disappointing, but life is sometimes disappointing,” Malone said. “You’ve just got to deal with it and go on.
Despite all the injuries, the Lakers have won 10 of 13 games since the All-Star break.
This is the second of a four-game trip for Los Angeles, which will play nine in a row at Staples Center beginning Monday.