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March 6, 2013

Pierce helps Celtics top slumping 76ers 109-101

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul Pierce had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Avery Bradley scored 22 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a 109-101 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

Kevin Garnett scored 18 points to help the Celtics continued their push up the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics entered in seventh, but were no more than two games behind the next three teams ahead in the standings.

Led by Pierce, the Celtics controlled the game and used a 9-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to seal the win. Last May, these two teams went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. On Wednesday, the Sixers lost for the ninth time in 10 games and are well out of the playoff race.

Jrue Holiday had 18 points and 10 assists for the Sixers, and Thaddeus Young had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Sixers beat the Celtics twice this season after stretching the Celtics to seven games in last year’s playoff series. But the Sixers are a team in freefall because of injuries and a roster ill-equipped to handle the losses of postseason standouts Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams.

There was some mild concern late in the fourth period when Holiday, their All-Star point guard, was hurt. Holiday grabbed his right ankle and hobbled back on defense after an awkward drive. He hopped on one foot after a steal attempt went nowhere, but did stay in the game.

Like so many teams over the last 15 years, the Sixers had no real answer for Pierce. He hit his first four 3-point attempts, each one more crushing than the last. When the Sixers went on a mini-run to close within eight, Pierce and Jason Terry connected on consecutive 3s to build a comfortable lead.

Pierce had averaged 21.8 points over 54 career games against the 76ers.

At one point in the first half, both teams were 15 of 32 from the field. The Celtics found other ways to separate themselves from the Sixers: Boston went to the free-throw line and made 3s. The Sixers missed 9 of 11 3-point attempts in the first half and were 0 for 3 from the free-throw line.

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