BOSTON (AP) – Shaquille O’Neal had 23 points, five rebounds and five blocks in a season-high 35 minutes for the short-handed Boston Celtics as they held off Charlotte 99-94 on Friday night, ending the Bobcats’ four-game winning streak.
O’Neal was 10 for 12 from the field as he huffed and puffed up and down the court all night and even made all three of his foul shots for Boston, which was without Kevin Garnett for the ninth straight game and missing Paul Pierce much of Friday because of foul trouble. Pierce still finished with 19 points.
Rajon Rondo added 18 points and 13 assists and Ray Allen scored eight of his 19 in the fourth quarter, leading Boston on a 10-2 run that broke open the game.
Gerald Wallace led Charlotte with 20 points.
D.J. Augustin added 19 points and Stephen Jackson scored 13 for the Bobcats, who fell to 6-3 under interim coach Paul Silas.
The Celtics needed a big night from their starters because their reserves combined for just nine points and six rebounds against the Bobcats, who were in it right up until a surge midway through the fourth quarter put the Celtics in command for good.
O’Neal opened the fourth with a three-point play, getting a bonus free throw because of a lane violation, but the pesky Bobcats wouldn’t go away and got Pierce to commit his fifth foul with 8:42 left in the game and Boston up 76-72. Wallace hit a jumper to cut the margin to two, but the Celtics responded with a 10-2 run.
O’Neal started it with a hook shot, then Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Celtics back in command. Rondo added a 3 to make it 86-76 with about 5:25 left. Allen added three free throws after drawing a foul on a 3-pointer and the Celtics just needed to hang on from there.
Pierce opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer as the Celtics made eight of their first 10 shots, breaking a 44-all tie and pulling away by as much as eight.
But the Bobcats never let it get out of hand and used a 9-2 spurt late in the period to get within a point and trailed only 69-66 at the end of the third.
Notes: Five Boston reserves played in the first half and not one scored a point. … The Celtics led for nearly all of the first quarter until going without a field goal for nearly 3 minutes late in the period, allowing Charlotte to rally and tie it at 24 entering the second. … The Celtics assigned rookie guard Avery Bradley to the NBA Development League earlier Friday. … The Bobcats have lost six straight against the Celtics.
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