CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Paul Pierce scored 35 points and hit the clinching jumper in the final minute to lead the Boston Celtics to their fifth straight win, 106-100 over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night.

Pierce hit the go-ahead free throws with 2:06 left and a fadeaway 17-footer with 39 seconds remaining, part of a 10-0 run to give the Celtics a 102-97 lead.

Al Jefferson added 22 points for the Celtics, who recovered after blowing a 12-point halftime lead.

It’s Boston’s longest winning streak since it won seven straight in March 2005.

Gerald Wallace scored 31 points and Emeka Okafor added 12 points, 19 rebounds and tied his own team record with eight blocks for the Bobcats, who failed again to win consecutive games for the first time this season.

Wallace, who hadn’t scored more than 21 points in an injury-plagued season, scored on back-to-back possessions to give Charlotte a 97-92 lead with 3:48 left.

But the Bobcats then went more than 3 minutes without scoring to allow the Celtics to get their fourth straight road win.

Both teams lost key reserves to sprained ankles.

Charlotte’s Sean May, who scored a career-high 32 points in the Bobcats’ win over Orlando on Thursday, came down awkwardly battling for a defensive rebound early in the second quarter and did not return.

Boston’s Wally Szczerbiak had to be helped to the locker room late in the third quarter after he injured his ankle while committing a foul.

The Bobcats, who also played without starting point guard Brevin Knight (strained groin), were outscored 25-7 immediately after May left to close the quarter as the Celtics took a 10-point halftime lead.

Pierce tipped in a miss to start the third quarter to give Boston a 62-50 lead.

The Bobcats responded with a 16-3 run as Wallace scored six points and Okafor blocked three shots.

Charlotte built an 84-78 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Notes: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s another two to three weeks before Philadelphia trades Allen Iverson. “It’s going to screw up a couple of teams,” Rivers said of the trade rumors.

… Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said they’ll likely recall rookie C Ryan Hollins from the NBDL when they play in Dallas on Dec. 26. Hollins, who has missed the past week with a mild ankle sprain, is averaging 12.2 points and 10.4 rebounds for Fort Worth. … Celtics F Ryan Gomes did not travel with the team due to a strained right calf. He’s expected to return for Wednesday’s game against Golden State.

AP-ES-12-16-06 2146EST


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