The Boston Celtics played like a championship-caliber team for the final 12 minutes last night, and that was enough against the up-and-coming Indiana Pacers.
Indiana led for all but a few minutes in the first three quarters, but visiting Boston outscored the Pacers 29-16 in the fourth while holding them to 26 percent shooting for a 95-83 victory.
"We just kept playing defense," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Then all of a sudden, our shots started falling and our defense stayed."
Paul Pierce scored 21 points, Ray Allen added 17 and Kevin Garnett had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Boston point guard Rajon Rondo missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle. The Celtics improved to 4-1 without him and maintained the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics were coming off an 86-78 loss at Orlando on Christmas that ended a 14-game winning streak.
"You always want to get back on track, especially after a tough loss," Pierce said. "All of these road games are tough, no matter who you're playing because teams are comfortable in their home environment."
Glen Davis scored 14 points and former Pacer Marquis Daniels added 12 for the Celtics. They combined for eight points and two assists during the 13-2 run to start the fourth quarter that put the Celtics in control for good.
Daniels entered the game with his Celtics trailing 60-53 in the third quarter. The 6-6 guard used his height advantage against Indiana's 6-footers Darren Collison and T.J. Ford.
"The game turned around when they went to a big 1 guard and were able to post up T.J. and Darren," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "That slowed the tempo and got them back in the game."
In other games:
* At Denver, Chauncey Billups scored 18 points and the shorthanded Nuggets snapped a season-high, three-game losing streak by beating the Portland Trail Blazers, 95-77.
J.R. Smith and Nene added 17 points apiece for the Nuggets, who were without forward Carmelo Anthony for a fourth consecutive game following the death of his sister. Anthony is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow.
* At Cleveland, Gilbert Arenas scored 22 points, fellow newcomer Jason Richardson added 20, and the Orlando Magic made a season-high 19 three-pointers in a 110-95 victory over the Cavaliers.
* At Miami, Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 40 points, LeBron James and Chris Bosh each finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heat held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the New York Knicks, 106-98.
* At Chicago, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng scored 24 points apiece as the Bulls overpowered the Milwaukee Bucks, 90-77. The Bucks, already missing starting point guard Brandon Jennings with a broken foot, were without backup Earl Boykins, who was suspended for one game for making intentional contact with a referee in Monday's loss to Atlanta.
* At San Antonio, Tony Parker scored 23 points and the Spurs, backing up their NBA-best record against the defending champions, beat Kobe Bryant and the reeling Lakers, 97-82.