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CELTICS 103, JAZZ 83

Bruising win for Celtics

Teammates trounce Jazz after Szczerbiak goes down

SALT LAKE CITY -- The look on Doc Rivers's face said it all. With Wally Szczerbiak crumpled on the baseline, Rivers made the long walk back to the Celtics' side of the court.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Rivers appeared sick to his stomach. Too many times in recent weeks, he has gotten bad injury news about a key player.

But X-rays came back negative, and the official word on the injury was ''bruised left knee." His status is day to day. Returning to action tonight at Phoenix seems unlikely, though, as Szczerbiak expected more swelling overnight. He was walking with a pronounced limp, and could not bend his leg.

Szczerbiak suffered the bruise in a knee-on-knee collision with Utah guard Milt Palacio with 8:38 remaining in the first quarter and did not return. In his place, Delonte West complemented Paul Pierce on offense as the Celtics dominated the third quarter on the way to a 103-83 victory over the Jazz.

For West, once injury-prone himself, it was a pleasantly ironic twist as he finished 1 point shy of his career-high with 22 points. For the Celtics, it was much-needed strong start to a four-game trip.

''It was a hell of a win for us," said Rivers. ''I'll say that. With Wally going out, everybody just had to pitch in and everybody did a great job of it.

''I thought we won the game at the end of the second quarter. Delonte's offensive explosion got us back in the game. It gave us some hope. It was something we needed because when Wally went down, you could see everybody's heads went down a little bit."

In addition to the look of sickened disbelief that initially crossed Rivers's face when Szczerbiak went down, there was vocal concern from Pierce. The captain leaned over the scorers' table and TV man Mike Gorman to ask, ''Is it twisted? Did it turn?"

According to Szczerbiak, there was no structural damage.

''It shouldn't be too bad," said Szczerbiak, who was dealing with problems in the knee before the All-Star break. ''There's no tears, no sprains or anything like that, just a real bad hard hit. I felt a little cracking and clunking in the back, but that's pretty much what I've been dealing with."

As for his status tonight, Szczerbiak said, ''I'm just going to get treatment and take it day by day. When it happened, it hurt so bad. I think that's just because the joint is a little bit inflamed."

Despite having only 10 players -- if you count rarely used rookie Gerald Green and development league call-up Dwayne Jones -- the Celtics put up an admirable fight at the end of the half after falling behind by 14 points (45-31) with 2:42 remaining. They closed with a 12-2 run and entered halftime behind by just 4, 47-43. In the run, staged without the foul-plagued Pierce, West scored 10 of the 12 points.

Building on that impressive play from West, the Celtics took the lead for the first time on a 3-pointer from Pierce with 8:24 remaining in the third. Pierce took over the game, scoring 17 of his 30 points in the quarter.

The captain had done most of his work by the time Boston closed the quarter with a 17-3 run with contributions from Michael Olowokandi (12 points, 11 rebounds), Tony Allen, and West. The Celtics shot 92 percent (12 of 13) in the period and held the Jazz to 26 percent (5 of 19) with what Rivers called ''phenomenal" zone defense.

With Pierce picking up his fourth personal early in the third, Rivers wisely went to zone and kept his leading scorer in the game. As a result, Boston outscored Utah, 37-17, in the third.

''We just decided we would play solid," said Pierce. ''We stayed with the zone and got stops, made them turn the ball over, kept them shooting at a low percentage.

''I know I was feeling good, and I think the guys were really feeding off what I was doing offensively."

Overall, the Celtics' offense was clicking the way it did earlier in the season. With no knock intended on Szczerbiak, his teammates displayed a scoring potency reminiscent of the time before the trade with Minnesota. They shot 58 percent (36 for 62) from the floor, including 67 percent from 3-point range.

The fourth quarter was a formality, with the visitors leading by as many as 25. It was the fifth time this season the Celtics have led by 20 or more points.

When the game ended, Rivers again looked like he was in disbelief. But this time it was the best kind.

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