INDIANAPOLIS, April 19 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce
used a foul shooting
clinic to carry the Boston Celtics to an unlikely victory.
Pierce drained all 21 free-throw attempts and poured in 21 of
his 40 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics rallied from
a 16-point deficit for a stunning 103-100 victory over the
Indiana Pacers in the opener of their Eastern Conference
Pierce, who also grabbed 11 rebounds, presented a huge matchup
problem for Indiana all game but never moreso than in the fourth
quarter. He repeatedly used his superior perimeter skills to
draw fouls from the Pacers on forays to the basket, making all
11 free throws in the period.
"It became pretty obvious that Paul could get to the line, so we
went with what worked," Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said.
Indiana took its final lead at 97-96 on two foul shots by Brad
with 32 seconds left. That set the stage for Pierce, who
nailed a step-back 3-pointer over the arm of Jeff Foster
seconds later to put the Celtics ahead for good.
It was a far cry from his struggles from the floor, where Pierce
was just 4-of-19 through three quarters and finished 8-of-24.
"I was pretty much tired coming into the game," Pierce said. "I
really didn't feel well. I had a sore throat. Early in the
game, my legs weren't there and I couldn't hit my jump shot.
But the least thing I could do was hit some free throws."
Pierce's 21-for-21 effort set a playoff record for most free
throws without a miss.
The Pacers' Al Harrington
missed a 3-pointer with nine seconds
left and Pierce made a pair from the line for a four-point lead.
But Jamaal Tinsley
gave Indiana hope by nailing a 3-pointer
with three seconds to go - just the Pacers' second basket over
the final 8:19.
Pierce made it 103-100 with two free throws with 2.6 seconds
left. Indiana got a half-court shot from Jonathan Bender
was well short as time expired.
"We're down, but it's a long series," Tinsley said. "We can't
dwell on it, it's just one game."
led the Pacers with 26 points before fouling out.
added 24 but scored just two in the fourth
quarter as the Celtics' swarming defense forced the ball out of
"We really just started missing shots down the stretch," Pacers
coach Isiah Thomas said. "We got downcourt and we couldn't
handle the basketball. It was a tough stretch of game for us."
Indiana led for almost the entire second half and grabbed its
largest advantage, 79-63, on a basket by O'Neal with 3 1/2
minutes left in the third quarter. The lead was 88-75 after
O'Neal's free throw with 7:42 remaining.
"Our goal was to get it to 10, and that is what we had to do
going into the fourth quarter," Pierce said. "Once we got it to
10, we tightened up our defense and we started to get a lot of
Pierce responded with a three-point play, Tony Delk
3-pointer and Antoine Walker
scored on a driving layup to
quickly slice the deficit to five with just over six minutes
remaining. Walker scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth
"It's a big win," Walker said. "We stepped up, stayed confident
and made big plays when we needed."
A running jumper by Miller gave the Pacers a 93-85 cushion with
3:35 left to play before Pierce scored seven points in a 9-2
tear that gave Boston its first lead since the first quarter,
The final two points came were free throws by Pierce, who
grabbed a defensive rebound and drew a foolish foul on Artest,
"It wasn't a foul," Artest said. "It was a jump ball, but they
saw it a different way."
The Pacers played most of the fourth quarter without veteran
shooting guard Reggie Miller
, who played just two of the final
12 minutes. He failed to score in the fourth and finished with
"We needed one stop and we put our best defenders out there,"
Thomas said. "We just didn't get that stop."
Boston also overcame the ejection of starting center Tony Battie
for a flagrant foul in the second quarter. Battie played just
10 minutes and had four points and four rebounds.
The Celtics got support for Pierce and Walker from Eric
, who scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Delk
chipped in 12 points.