Paul Pierce got the shot he wanted.
Tim Duncan got the result.
Duncan prevented Pierce from driving to the basket, forcing him to take a fadeaway jumper that clanged off the rim at the buzzer and the San Antonio Spurs held on for their ninth straight win, 87-86 over Boston on Wednesday night.
"It was make or miss. I just didn't want him to go by me," said Duncan, who had 10 points and 16 rebounds. "To be honest with you, he probably got the shot he wanted."
Pierce had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he couldn't maneuver into open space after Boston inbounded the ball with 7.9 seconds left. The 6-foot-11 Duncan stayed on him, forcing the 6-foot-7 Pierce to step back near the top of the key for a floater.
"I think I got to a good place. Just missed the shot," Pierce said. "These things are not really pre-scripted. You get into pressure situations, sometimes they make and sometimes they don't."
Danny Green scored 14 points, and Gary Neal had 13, including a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left that put the Spurs back in front after they blew a 17-point, first-half lead.
Avery Bradley scored 19 points off the bench for Boston, and Kevin Garnett had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ray Allen returned after missing six games with a sore right ankle and added seven rebounds and five points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that brought Boston within a point.
Green missed for San Antonio and Garnett got the rebound, but the Celtics couldn't convert.
"We were trying to get a Duncan-on-Paul matchup because we thought we had the speed advantage," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "But his step-back is what he wants."
The Celtics trailed 77-70 with 8:20 left before scoring 13 of the next 17 points to take the lead.
San Antonio, which averaged 107 points in the first eight games of its winning streak, had 59 in the first half and 28 in the second.
"It was a tale of two halves," Bonner said. "We weren't as sharp and didn't make as many shots in the second half, but we still played good defense, we rebounded the ball, kept us in it and made a few plays down the stretch to pull out the win."
It was 36-all when the Spurs scored 12 consecutive points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Matt Bonner. After Bradley snapped the string with a jumper, San Antonio rattled off another seven in a row to make it 55-38.
Boston cut it to 11 points by the end of the half and got within four in the third, holding the Spurs to nine points in the quarter. It was two points early in the fourth, and San Antonio led 77-70 before Garnett hit a pair of free throws, Rondo stole the ball and fed it to Bradley for a layup and then Garnett hit a layup to make it a one-point game.
Notes: Kentucky coach John Calipari was courtside, two days after winning the NCAA championship. ... Pierce was the Eastern Conference's player of the month for March. He averaged 22 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists while leading the Celtics to a 12-5 record in the month. ... The Spurs were 5 for 8 from 3-point range in the second quarter and 0 for 8 in the third. ... All of San Antonio's points in the first quarter came in the paint.