Paul Pierce scored 30 points and the Celtics won their eighth straight away from home, 89-77 over New Orleans on Wednesday night. The victory was even sweeter for the Celtics in light of recent losses at home to two other top Western Conference teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
“I guess we learned from our mistakes,” Pierce said. “It was all about execution, especially in the fourth quarter and we defended at a higher level there in the fourth. Those are two things we’ve got to do, especially on the road.”
Kevin Garnett added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Eddie House scored eight of his 12 points in the final period to help Boston pull away despite the absence of Allen, who hyperextended his right thumb in the first half.
“It was a good, gutty win for us,” said Boston coach Doc Rivers, whose team shot 47 percent in the final quarter while holding New Orleans to 33 percent.
Paul, who’d missed four games with a right groin strain, finished with 13 points and five assists in 32 minutes. He was disappointed with the loss but satisfied with how he felt physically after the game.
“I was a little nervous about what I could do, whether I could cut. It’s one thing in practice, playing two-on-two, but it’s another thing playing at game speed. But I’m excited because now I feel good to go.”
Allen, who was wearing a wrap on his right hand in the locker room, is expected to be ready to go Thursday night in Dallas.
With Paul, West and Armstrong leading the way, New Orleans played Boston to a 64-64 tie through three quarters.
Paul then rested during the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, when House made two 3-pointers and scored eight points to help the Celtics surge to a 79-67 lead. Rajon Rondo added a difficult floater in the lane and fed a bounce pass to Leon Powe for a dunk during the spurt.
“We stuck with one play we saw was working and we just milked it,” Pierce said, referring to the high pick-and-roll that normally works so well for Paul and the Hornets. “Rondo does a great job finding open guys and when he wasn’t finding open guys he was finishing at the rim.”
Paul returned with about seven minutes to go, but it was too late. Rasual Butler’s 3-pointer got New Orleans within eight points with a little over six minutes left, but Pierce fed Powe for another dunk to get Boston’s lead back to 10, Garnett added a jumper and the Celtics led by double-digits the rest of the way.
Powe finished with 11 points for Boston and Rondo had 11 assists.
Peja Stojakovic had an off-night for New Orleans, going 3-of-12 from the field and injuring his left shoulder in the third quarter. He returned to the game late in the fourth quarter but was not a factor and finished with eight points.
“We got real good looks, we got points in the paint, we got to the basket, we got to the free throw line, we just could not make enough open shots on a consistent basis,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “It just came down to who was going to make the most shots, and obviously they did.”
New Orleans was 2-of-11 on 3-point attempts, but Boston did not shoot well from long range either, missing its first 10 3s before House hit Boston’s only two.
Paul’s introduction with the starters brought thunderous applause, but he played only four minutes in the first quarter, checking out with two quick fouls before he had a point or assist.
Paul looked more like himself shortly after his return early in the second quarter. He tossed in a floater over a crowd of defenders as he was being knocked down. He added a midrange jumper and his fast-break layup after a steal by Stojakovic put New Orleans ahead 41-38 late in the half.
West, who had 10 points in the first half, put New Orleans up 43-38 on baseline jumper, but Boston cut it to 44-42 by halftime after Pierce’s layup on a spinning drive through the lane.
Paul was called for a technical foul in the first quarter, when he argued a blocking foul called against him on a drive by Pierce. … Boston coach Doc Rivers and reserve F Glen Davis also were called for technical fouls for arguing with officials. … The game was the Hornets’ last before this weekend’s All-Star break. The Celtics play the second game of a six-game road trip Thursday night in Dallas, then resume the trip next week. … Recording artist Dave Matthews sat in the front row at midcourt, next to Hornets owner George Shinn.