BOSTON -- Paul Pierce played more than 44 minutes in Orlando on Thursday night, then boarded a plane with his Celtics teammates and arrived in Boston after 3 a.m. Friday. If he was tired, he didnt show it. One night after helping Boston erase a 27-point deficit and beat the Magic, Pierce scored 17 of his 28 points in the third quarter as the Celtics pulled away from the Indiana Pacers to win 94-87. "I like to come out in the third quarter and just be aggressive," said Pierce, who also had 10 rebounds and eight assists. "You can make your run. You cant really settle on the lead. I try to focus on extending the lead, being more aggressive and getting better as the game goes on." Kevin Garnett and Mickael Pietrus added 13 points and eight rebounds apiece as the Celtics won their fourth straight game despite playing without starters Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Jermaine ONeal. Pierce was 4 of 7 from three-point range, one of them to break a 46-46 tie early in the third quarter. He added two more baskets as the Celtics ran off 11 points in a row to take the lead for good and extend it to double digits. "Hats off to Paul Pierce. He turned back the clock," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Obviously, hes playing like one of the best players in the league again, carrying the load for them. They deserved to win tonight." The Celtics had a home-and-home series with the Magic this week, beating them in Boston on Monday and then falling behind by 27 in the first half in Orlando on Thursday before holding them to eight fourth-quarter points in a 91-83 victory. The Celtics flew back to Boston and arrived early Friday morning; most of the players went to sleep, but the coaches stayed up to prepare for the Pacers. Meanwhile, Indiana was in Boston, resting. "They were going to try to run us out of the gym," Rivers said. "This was a tough game against a good team that had a day off, waiting for us." Danny Granger scored 21 points for Indiana, which had beaten Boston both previous meetings this season -- both times by more than 10 points. Paul George scored 16 with nine rebounds and David West had 14 points and eight rebounds. It was 46-all with 8:44 left in the third quarter when Pierce hit a 3 to break the tie. In the next 2 1-2 minutes, Pierce fed Avery Bradley for a layup and then, after Roy Hibbert was called for an offensive foul, Pierce hit a layup, Garnett made a jumper and then Pierce drove for another basket to make it an 11-point game. "This was their night," Hibbert said. "Paul Pierce made some real tough shots. Hes been leading this team since Ray and Rondo went out." The Celtics were up 90-80 with 35 seconds left when Pietrus was called for a flagrant foul under the Pacers basket and a technical for taunting. After three free throws, the Pacers got the ball trailing by only seven. But Garnett blocked Grangers attempt to drive for a layup, and the Celtics were able to make their free throws to run out the clock. The Celtics opened the second half with a 42-34 lead, but the Pacers cut it in half on two quick layups by Granger and then tied it at 46 with 8:44 left in the third quarter when he stole a bad pass from Pierce and brought it in for another. Reserve Chris Wilcox had 14 points and six rebounds, and Brandon Bass had 12 points for Boston. NOTES: Hibbert left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain, but he returned in the third. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. ... The Pacers had been 4-0 on Fridays. ... Wilcox had 10 points and six rebounds at the half. ... Garnett is the only Celtic to have played in every game. ... The Celtics are 3-0 without Allen (left ankle) and 4-1 without Rondo (right wrist). ... The Pacers were 1 for 19 from 3-point range. Wholesale Jerseys
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. -- Brandon Moss still had remnants of a whipped-cream pie splashed across both sides of his beard in the clubhouse.INDIANAPOLIS - Robert Mathis still remembers the first time he wandered into the Colts no-hit zone. As the fifth-round draft pick went through a routine practice in 2003, he wound up getting a little too close to Peyton Manning on a pass rush. No, he didnt hit the franchise quarterback, but Indy coaches immediately scolded the rookie and reminded him of the potentially dire consequences if he made the same mistake again. "If you come within two yards of him, you might get cut," Mathis said with a smile this week. "Thats just the truth." Mathis wised up fast, which is why he is still hanging around Indianapolis (4-2) and wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. Since making that blunder, Mathis has seen and done just about everything in 11 NFL seasons. Hes won a Super Bowl, two AFC titles, been to five consecutive Pro Bowls, topped 100 career sacks and is now chasing the Colts franchise record for sacks, held by his old pal Dwight Freeney. At age 32, he shares the NFL lead with 9 1/2 sacks, and he has proven to be every bit as effective as a standup linebacker as he was playing defensive end. This weekend, Mathis will finally get a chance to add one missing line to his resume — sacking Manning. Though 14 players on Indys roster remain from the Manning era, only five went up against him in practice — linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner, safety Antoine Bethea, defensive linemen Ricardo Matthews, Fili Moala and Mathis. But through the years, the protective blanket around Manning always existed. "If you did hit him, you might as well pack your bags and leave town," Angerer said. On Sunday night, when Manning returns to Indianapolis for the first time as the opponent, the Colts defence can finally line him up. Mathis and others have made it clear all week that they are not making this game personal. But when the Broncos (6-0) and Colts (4-2) meet in the NFLs most anticipated homecoming since Brett Favre showed up in Green Bay with the Vikings, Mathis plans to get down to the business of putting Manning on the ground. It wont be easy, and with Manning it never is. In 230 career games, Manning has been sacked just 257 times, an average of 17.9 per season. This year, Manning leads the league with 22 TD passes, a 128.dddddddddddd passer rating, an offence that is on pace to shatter the NFLs single-season scoring record. Hes been sacked just five times despite playing behind an offensive line that includes a backup left tackle, a first-year centre and a right tackle who finished last weeks 35-19 victory at right guard. The biggest challenge this week might be avoiding Mathis. "If this was a scenario where all I had to do maybe was come back and wave and smile and kiss a few babies and sign a few autographs, itd be different," Manning said. "But somehow Ive got to figure out a way to stay away from Mathis and try to complete a few passes on (Vontae) Davis and Bethea and thats going to be tough because I think its a tough defence." Indys defence looks nothing like the one Manning left behind. The Colts have ditched their trademark 4-3 look for the trendy hybrid 3-4, cut ties with defensive captain Gary Brackett and let Freeney walk away in free agency. Over the past two seasons, Indy has added five new starters in the front seven, moved Mathis and replaced three of the four starters in the secondary. Manning has spent most of the week working overtime to get familiar with all the new faces and philosophies. But the ex-teammates know what to expect from their former quarterback. "Its going to be a chess match, of course. He looks for his mismatches just like any other quarterback does," Bethea said. "Its going to be tough. He might get us a few times, we might get him a few times, but for the most part, like I continue to say, we got to go out there and play ball. When we get chances to make plays, we got to make our plays." Especially Mathis, who has the ability to change games with big, turnover-causing sacks. Manning has seen it before, hes just never been the target since that practice in 2003. Until now. "Somebody asked me earlier, is it the same as playing against Eli, and I said I guarantee Robert Mathis hits a heck of a lot harder than Eli does," Manning said. "From that standpoint, its definitely different. All I know is kind of what I have to do right now is great ready for a good defence. Boy, theyre impressive to watch on film. Mathis, Robert is having a great year. Its really a factor." ' ' '