ATLANTA – After listening to Doc Rivers lecture the Boston Celtics at halftime Saturday night, Paul Pierce told his teammates to respect their coach and follow orders.
“We were kind of bickering at each other a little bit too much, figuring out what defense we were going to run,” Pierce said. “And I just had to say that the fight ain’t with one another. It’s against the other team on the court.”
The Celtics responded in the second half, with Rajon Rondo finishing off a triple double as Boston rallied for an 89-81 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.
Pierce scored 17 of his 26 points in the third quarter as the Celtics erased a 19-point deficit and went on to consecutive wins for the first time since late November against Oklahoma City and Orlando. Rondo had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Boston, which beat Indiana 94-75 on Friday night, had lost four straight road games.
Rivers insisted that despite the first-half struggles against the Hawks, the game plan wouldn’t change.
“I was like, ‘Don’t get mad at Doc, he’s coaching,’ ” Pierce said. “We’ve got to get mad at this other team.”
Lou Williams scored 21 of his 28 points in the first half for Atlanta, which has lost two straight. Jeff Teague added 17 points, and Josh Smith, who was 2 of 12 in the second half, finished with 12 points.
The Hawks got off to a fast start, then fell apart in the third quarter as Boston began doubling ballhandlers on the perimeter and clamping down on Atlanta inside.
“They just climbed up in us defensively,” Teague said. “They got physical and they brought pressure and got us out of our comfort zone. We just didn’t respond.”
The Celtics trailed by 19 with 6:20 left in the second, but led 61-60 on Jared Sullinger’s alley-oop layup with 3:47 left in the third. It was their first lead since the game’s first minute.
Kevin Garnett’s fast-break layup with 8:53 remaining gave the Celtics their first double-digit lead at 79-68. Garnett finished with 14 points.
“The second half was completely different,” Rivers said. “We worked the set. The first play went from one side to the other on offense. On defense they were late in the shot clock because Avery (Bradley) and Rondo both were up ball pressuring. And it changed the game for us.”
Jason Terry, in his first season with Boston and 13th overall, credited Pierce with backing up Rivers.
“We took the challenge,” Terry said. “We took it personal. You come in at halftime, and Lou Williams has 21 points, primarily all easy baskets. He was just letting them fly. So we wanted to invade his space. As we did that, we started to get more and more stops.
“Paul Pierce got it rolling. He really made his imprint on the game.”
TRAIL BLAZERS 102, TIMBERWOLVES 89: Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews each made five 3s and scored 26 points to lead Portland at Minneapolis.
ROCKETS 112, CAVALIERS 104: James Harden scored 29 points, 16 in the fourth quarter, and Houston won at Cleveland.
NETS 113, KINGS 93: Brook Lopez scored 18 points in 17 minutes to lead six players in double figures, and Brooklyn got a nice effort from its reserves at home for its third straight victory.
KNICKS 114, MAGIC 106: Carmelo Anthony scored 16 of his season-high 40 points in the fourth quarter, helping New York win at Orlando, Fla.
PACERS 95, BUCKS 80: Roy Hibbert had 20 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead Indiana at Indianapolis.
SPURS 109, 76ERS 86: Tony Parker had 20 points and Manu Ginobili added 19 for San Antonio at home.
HORNETS 99, MAVERICKS 96: Eric Gordon completed a three-point play with 4.7 seconds left in overtime and New Orleans won at Dallas.
NUGGETS 110, JAZZ 91: Danilo Gallinari scored 26 points and Denver won at home.
TIMBERWOLVES: Forward Kevin Love re-fractured his right hand.