BOSTON, Jan. 17 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce
and Antoine Walker
did it again, this time to the best team in the Eastern Conference.
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Pierce hit two key jumpers in the final two minutes and Walker had 31 points and 10 rebounds as the Boston Celtics squandered a big lead late in the game but reclaimed it for a 98-93 triumph over the Indiana Pacers, who had a five-game winning streak
Boston squandered a 14-point lead and watched Indiana open a 91-86 advantage late in the fourth quarter. But rookie J.R. Bremer hit a three-pointer and Walker made a layup to tie it with 2:15 to go.
Pierce, who finished with 31 points on 12-of-29 shooting, took over from there. He made an off-balance 18-footer from the
right elbow with 1:39 left, giving Boston a 93-91 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Jermaine O'Neal lost the ball. Pierce came back down the right wing and buried a 17-footer with Al Harrington's hand in his face for a 95-91 lead with 1:14 to go.
"I had my hands right up there," Harrington said. "But that's why they pay him the big bucks, to make those shots."
O'Neal finished with 22 points and Harrington added 14 and a season-high 18 rebounds for the Pacers, who shot 40 percent
Walker scored 22 points in the first half on 9-of-12 shooting for Boston, which had dropped nine of its last 11.
O'Neal halved the deficit on a tip-in with 58 seconds to play, but Reggie Miller missed a three-pointer with 28 seconds to go and rookie Bremer was fouled, making the second free throw for a 96-93 advantage.
"You expect a good team like Indiana to make their run," Pierce said. "But if we play as hard as we did tonight, who knows, we probably can win the East."
Miller then turned the ball over when trying an inbounds pass with 10 seconds left, and Eric Williams found Pierce right under the basket for the final basket for the Celtics.
"I thought we got good looks down the stretch but couldn't seem to find anything to fall," said Miller. "Pierce's two buckets
were big. They made more plays and bigger plays down the stretch then we did."
Indiana attempted 36 free throws compared to Boston's 17 in a scrappy game that did not feature much of a flow. But the
Celtics wasted a 14-point lead late in the third quarter.
A jumper by Ron Mercer capped a 17-2 surge and gave the Pacers an 80-79 lead with 9:42 to play.
"We had opportunities to win the basketball game and just didn't do it tonight," said Pacers coach Isiah Thomas.