The Boston Celtics ended a two-game losing streak with a 105-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night. Ray Allen led a strong team effort with 18 points while Rajon Rondo added 15 and 11 assists for the Celtics, who welcomed back their All Star forward Paul Pierce after he missed the three previous games with a thumb injury.
But it was Nate Robinson, playing his fourth game with Boston after being acquired from the New York Knicks, who scored 14 points in 15 minutes to make the difference. "That's exactly what we need from Nate," said Doc Rivers, the Boston coach. "We want to wind him up and let him go. I felt like we had to get him comfortable, so we put in one of the Knicks' plays and ran that for him in the fourth quarter.
"The other four guys were uncomfortable, but Nate was comfortable and he hit the shots." Detroit (21-39) led 77-73 early in the fourth, but three three-pointers by Robinson helped Boston go on a game-winning 16-4 run. "This was big for us," said Allen. "Nate was big. He can get to the basket, he can hit the mid-range stuff and he can get the three-ball. That helps us a lot with the second unit." The rookie Jonas Jerebko led the Pistons with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince scored 15 points each. The loss was Detroit's fourth in a row.
"We played a great game for three quarters, but they really hurt us with the three-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter," John Kuester, the Pistons coach, said. "We've got to get better at closing out games." Pierce committed a foul with 1:13 left and the Celtics leading 95-90, and Jerebko went to the free throw line. After protests from the Celtics, though, the officials sent Ben Wallace to the line, and he missed both shots. Wallace, who left moments later with a minor knee injury, is now two for 20 from the line in Detroit's last five games.
"Ben has been in this league for a long time, and he knows that he has to work his way out of this," Kuester said. "It's certainly not a question of effort - he's the first one in the gym and the last one out. He hits 70 per cent in practice, but he's got to go to the line and make them in the games." Kobe Bryant had 24 points, hitting 14-of-15 free throws, as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled away with a dominating third-quarter run for a 122-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
"I'm not trippin'," Bryant said. "I got to the free throw line 15 times, the last time that happened I don't even know. That's kind of how you get your rhythm back, get to the free throw line." "Kobe felt like his outside game wasn't going well so he had to take the ball to the basket,"said Phil Jackson, the Lakers coach. "You have to take care of yourself when you go to the basket a lot, especially when you're injury prone. He found a way to play, which is very admirable."
* With agencies