BOSTON (AP) – Paul Pierce had 25 points and seven rebounds to lead the Boston Celtics over the Indiana Pacers 85-71 on Wednesday night.

Indiana’s Ron Artest missed his third consecutive game, and second since requesting a trade last weekend.

The Pacers were also without Jamaal Tinsley and Austin Croshere, who were both out with injuries.

Mark Blount added a season-high 22 points for the Celtics, who snapped a two-game skid in their first home game since Dec. 2.

Boston had its best defensive effort of the season, holding Indiana to a season low in points.

The Pacers shot just 32.5 percent from the field and Jermaine O’Neal was held to 14 points after scoring at least 20 in seven consecutive games.

The Celtics went on an 8-0 run to start the second quarter and took a 30-21 lead on Al Jefferson’s layup with 9:13 left in the half.

The Pacers missed their first 11 field-goal attempts of the second quarter, including a dunk by O’Neal, before Stephen Jackson’s layup broke the drought with 4:33 left in the half.

Delonte West’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the half extended the Celtics’ lead to 47-31 at halftime.

Jackson had 18 points and Anthony Johnson added 14 for the Pacers.

Sarunas Jasikevicius and Jackson sparked an 11-2 run to open the third quarter as the Pacers pulled to 49-42.

But Pierce and Blount responded with a pair of jumpers as the Celtics pulled away. Pierce then made a 3-pointer with 7:32 left in the game to extend the lead to 70-56.

Jefferson had eight points and added six rebounds for the Celtics.

Notes: The Pacers and Celtics have met in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. … The Pacers came in as one of only three Eastern Conference teams with a winning road record. … G Marcus Banks will be activated in time for Boston’s game against Milwaukee on Friday. … Jackson and Jasikevicius made all of Indiana’s field goals from 2:25 left in the first quarter until Johnson’s jumper with 8:34 left in the third quarter.

AP-ES-12-14-05 2237EST

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