BOSTON (AP)—Paul Pierce was relieved to learn just before Sunday’s game that NBA scoring leader Tracy McGrady wouldn’t play for Orlando. He was even happier after the first triple-double of his career.
“I’ll take it,” Pierce said of McGrady’s absence. “Who wants the leading scorer playing?”
Pierce had 27 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high 13 assists as the Boston Celtics beat the Magic 91-83.
McGrady missed the game to be with his fiancee, who gave birth to a daughter Saturday night in an Orlando-area hospital. Jeryl Sasser started in his place and had a career-high 26 points with 10 rebounds and four steals.
“We hung in there and kept the game at our pace,” Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think Pierce ever worked so hard for his points.”
He had to since the Magic didn’t have to worry about guarding Antoine Walker, who missed his third straight game with a sprained right knee. Boston has won two of them and six of its last seven.
“I just took it upon myself to really elevate my game,” Pierce said. “I haven’t had 13 assists since high school.”
Orlando made a late run, cutting the margin to 85-81 on Sasser’s 3-pointer with 1:09 to go. Pierce then hit two free throws, but Pat Garrity made a basket for the Magic.
J.R. Bremer hit two free throws for Boston, but Orlando still had a chance until Mike Miller missed an 18-footer with 30 seconds left and Jacque Vaughn failed on a layup attempt with 23 seconds to go. Pierce then hit two free throws for the game’s final points.
Orlando’s starting forwards shot very poorly with Miller going 2-of-18 and Garrity 2-of-12.
“Sometimes that’s what happens when you miss a few that you know are really contested,” Garrity said. “Open ones are even that much harder to make.”
Orlando cut a 57-46 deficit to 59-58 with 10:41 left in the game. Pierce then hit two free throws for a three-point lead.
That’s when Walter McCarty took over. Scoreless to that point, he hit Boston’s next three baskets, all 3-pointers, for a 70-61 lead. The last two came 39 seconds apart.
“I don’t know if we get this game without those two shots,” Boston coach Jim O’Brien said. “We were kind of on the ropes.”
And none from McGrady.
“We felt even without him we had a chance to win because we’ve got a lot of scorers on this team,” Sasser said.
The Celtics led 42-32 at halftime, continuing their excellent first-half defense. In their previous game Friday night, Pierce scored 45 points. Boston led Denver 44-29 at halftime as Pierce nearly outscored the Nuggets with 28 points.
“This was more impressive than in his 45-point game,” O’Brien said. “I’m very pleased with the leadership he’s given us the past couple of games.”
Boston stretched its lead to 50-36 with 9:18 left in the third quarter on consecutive baskets by Eric Williams and Battie.
It was 57-46 before Sasser led a 10-2 surge with six points as Orlando cutthe lead to 59-56 with one quarter left.
Boston’s Tony Delk missed the game with a sprained left ankle. … The only other Celtics with triple doubles are Walker, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Kevin Gamble. … McGrady has scored at least 30 points in each of his last five games. … Orlando outrebounded Boston 45-30. … Pierce has 13 double-doubles this season, four fewer than the career high he set lastseason.