At age 36, Gary Payton no longer puts together long stretches of outstanding games. Last night, though, he played as if he were in his prime. Payton scored a season-high 27 points...

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BOSTON — At age 36, Gary Payton no longer puts together long stretches of outstanding games. Last night, though, he played as if he were in his prime.

Payton scored a season-high 27 points, matched his season high of 11 assists and led a Boston Celtics running game that beat the Utah Jazz 114-106.

“He was awesome,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “Tonight was Gary’s night.”

After a disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers in which he took a backseat to superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Payton was acquired by the Celtics and is thriving as the leader of their improved up-tempo attack.

“I was pushing the ball and everybody was getting out” on the fast break, the ex-Sonic said. “We distributed the ball very well and I think we kept everybody in the flow. So when everybody touches the ball then we’re a good basketball team.”

Utah’s only lead was 2-0, and Boston led by at least eight points for the final 40 minutes.

The Celtics hit 56 percent of their shots to take a 58-40 lead at halftime and stretched that to as much as 21, leading 84-63 on two free throws by Marcus Banks with 1:36 left in the third quarter. The closest Utah came after that was eight points, the first time on Carlos Boozer’s layup with 3:56 to play that made it 97-89.

“The Celtics were just much more interested in doing the right things,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “We had moments tonight where we looked so disinterested. Guys were driving to the basket and we would just let them go.”

Mavericks fans offer front-row seats to wounded soldiers

DALLAS — About 140 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will sit courtside at a Dallas Mavericks game tonight, thanks to season-ticket holders who offered their seats in a show of gratitude.

“It’s a small way for me to show some appreciation for what they’ve done for us,” ticket holder Jim Leslie said. “I still don’t think it’s enough.”

The soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio will fly to Dallas — on a chartered jet donated by American Airlines — to see the Mavericks play the Atlanta Hawks. They will be treated to free food and drink and have their pictures taken with Mavericks players, dancers and team officials.

Team owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail: “This is a chance for these servicemen and women to feel the admiration and respect of 20,000 people, reinforcing for them that we as a nation feel grateful for what they have done for us.”

Season-ticket holder Neal Hawks began offering seats to soldiers last season. This year, he approached other season-ticket holders and got 133 tickets worth roughly $150,000, all in the front row.

“Virtually everyone said I could have their tickets,” Hawks said. “I even had a couple season-ticket holders who had already given their tickets away go and get them back.”

Cpl. J.R. Martinez, 21, attended a game last season while recovering from severe burns when his Humvee hit a land mine in Iraq. He said many of the wounded soldiers are “probably in the depression stage.”

“For them to go and be able to feel that energy, it’s definitely going to help their morale,” he said.


• The fallout from the Paul SilasEric Snow spat will be known today.

The Cleveland coach and backup point guard clashed during Thursday’s game, which led to Silas banishing Snow to the locker room and then benching him for the second half.

According to team sources, Silas is considering suspending Snow for a game without pay, but might just fine him. He will make his decision this morning before the team’s shoot-around as they prepare to face Boston tonight in Cleveland.

Silas and Snow both declined to speak to the media about the incident Thursday, and the team canceled practice yesterday.

• The Philadelphia 76ers activated G Kevin Ollie and placed F Josh Davis on the injured list.

• New Jersey’s Brian Scalabrine, a product of Enumclaw High School, had a career-high 21 points in the Nets’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

• The Toronto Raptors waived F Jerome Moiso and placed C Rafael Araujo and F Pape Sow on the injured list.

• Indiana Pacers F Austin Croshere missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.