Pierce Helps New Look Celtics Earn Win

BOSTON (AP) -- Kevin Garnett's dazzling debut with the Celtics gave their fans and long-suffering Paul Pierce plenty to celebrate.

Garnett had 22 points, 20 rebounds and five assists, Pierce scored 28 points and sparked Boston's take-charge rally in the first half, and the Celtics opened their promising season with a 103-83 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

Add 17 points from Ray Allen, another veteran newcomer, and the Celtics looked nothing like the teams Pierce played for in his first nine seasons with Boston. Those teams won just three playoff series.

Now, after offseason trades for Garnett and Allen, the Celtics are a popular choice to go far in the postseason. Not bad for a team that had the longest losing streak in its history last season, 18 games, and finished with its second-worst record, 24-58.

Garnett, Pierce, and Allen left the game to a standing ovation with 2:30 left and the score 98-75. Garnett and Pierce raised their right index fingers to the screaming crowd, then Garnett knelt in front of the bench and slapped hands with his teammates.

Gilbert Arenas scored 21 points and Caron Butler had 18 for the Wizards, who were eliminated in the first round last season by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Arenas was just 5-for-20 from the field.

Pierce led a second-quarter rally that gave the Celtics control, expanding a 27-24 lead to 43-26. They led by at least 15 the rest of the way.

He was part of an up-tempo offense and scrappy defense that was missing from the Celtics for most of his NBA career. All that changed when they obtained Allen from Seattle, then made a 7-for-1 trade to get Garnett from Minnesota.

Garnett, Allen and Pierce each missed his first shot of the game and Boston led by just three before Pierce took charge and his new running mates followed.

He scored seven of the first 11 points in a 16-2 run that made it 43-26 midway through the quarter. Allen made a three-point play and Garnett finished the rally with a turnaround jumper.

Boston rolled to its biggest lead, 63-36 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Five different Celtics scored in that 13-2 surge.

The closest the Wizards came in the fourth quarter was 83-68, but Pierce scored the next three points.

The Celtics trio, dubbed "The Big Three," has a long way to go before it matches the accomplishments of the first group with that nickname -- Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale -- who were on Boston's last three championship teams in 1981, 1984, and 1986.

One young fan, though, was rooting for a shorter-term Big Three -- titles for three local pro teams.

He held up a sign: "RED SOX PATRIOTS CELTICS The BIG 3."

The Red Sox won the World Series last Sunday and the Patriots are 8-0 in pursuit of their fourth Super Bowl championship in seven years.

Members of both teams showed up to cheer on the Celtics.

From the Red Sox, there was owner John Henry and president Larry Lucchino with the World Series trophy and players Tim Wakefield, Jacoby Ellsbury and Manny Delcarmen. The contingent from the Patriots, who fly to Indianapolis on Saturday to play the unbeaten Colts, included owner Robert Kraft and players Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Junior Seau and Vince Wilfork.

The Celtics have nine new players, three of them starters. The Wizards had the same starting five from last season, now that Arenas is back from left knee surgery and Butler recovered from a broken right hand -- injuries that kept them out of the playoffs.


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