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Indiana 89, Boston 77
Pacers Belt Celts, Even Up Series

Jamaal Tinsley played tough defense on Tony Delk.
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INDIANAPOLIS, April 21 (Ticker) -- The Indiana Pacers did not allow Paul Pierce to burn them down the stretch this time.

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Jermaine O'Neal contributed 23 points and 20 rebounds and Reggie Miller added 18 points for the Pacers, who defeated the Boston Celtics, 89-77, to even their Eastern Conference first-round series at one game apiece.

"Jermaine is our MVP," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "Without Jermaine this whole year we would not have been the same team. Through the playoffs this team will live and die with his play."

In Game One on Saturday, Pierce scored 21 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Celtics to a 103-100 triumph. The All-Star forward set an NBA playoff record for free throws attempted without a miss (21), and went 11-of-11 in the final 12 minutes from the line.

In this contest, Pierce, who was suffering from a head cold, finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, was held scoreless in the fourth quarter and shot just 5-of-18 from the field and 3-of-5 from the line.

"I feel pretty exhausted right now, but coach (Jim O'Brien) wanted me to play the whole game and I just tried to answer the bell," Pierce said.

The Pacers never trailed. after opening up a 26-8 lead 8:49 into the contest, they allowed the Celtics to pull within 33-24 after one quarter and 54-48 at the break.

Boston got within one point twice midway through the third quarter but never could get over the hump.

"We dug ourselves a big hole and we couldn't dig ourselves out tonight," O'Brien said. "We didn't challenge shots at all and we only play well when we do challenge shots. We didn't drive the basketball, so we also didn't get to the line as much. This became a problem when we got down by 18 points because it changed my substitution patterns. It's hard to take Pierce and (Antoine) Walker out of the game when you're down by that much."

After Walker made it 70-67 on a layup to begin the fourth quarter, Ron Artest countered with a scoop shot and O'Neal a pair of free throws to make it 74-67 with 10:02 to play, and Boston got no closer than five points thereafter.

"We can't really get down as much as we did in the first quarter and expect to come back all the time," said Pierce, whose team rallied from 13 down with 7 1/2 minutes left on Saturday. "Falling behind so many points takes a lot out of you when you make a comeback effort. But we showed resiliency tonight and we fought back, so I am proud of our efforts."

"We definitely pay a lot of attention to him and Walker," Thomas said of Pierce. "Our goal was to make it tough for him to score, and Saturday's game we only played him tough for 40 minutes. But tonight we played him for 48 minutes."

Jamaal Tinsley contributed 15 points - including four 3-pointers - and seven assists.

"Last year Jamaal got hurt in the playoffs and that was rough for him," Thomas said. "But he's a guy we'll never count out. He's playing great this year and he always finds a way to come through in the end."

"He's shooting the ball very well right now," O'Brien said of Tinsley. "It gives their team a whole new dimension. It really frees things up for Jermaine and it stretches our defense."

Artest added 13 points for the Pacers, who shot just 43 percent (31-of-73) but limited the Celtics to 36 percent (28-of-78).

"I think tonight we played a good game defensively," said Artest, who fouled out guarding Pierce in Game One. "We needed this game and we came out with a sense of urgency. Everybody came out and executed. The keys, I think, down the stretch was getting some good stops."

"(Artest is) a good defender, but I've got to give credit to their team defense as a whole," Pierce said. "I was able to get around him most of the time, but it was the help that they sent at me that caused us problems."

Miller disagreed with Pierce's downplaying of Artest's defensive effort.

"We need to give Ron a lot of credit," Miller said. "He's much smarter than you give him credit for. He understands what he needs to do for this team. He's been playing great defense on Pierce."

Walker paced Boston with 19 points and reserve Walter McCarty added 16.

"I really feel that we missed an opportunity tonight," O'Brien said. "We could have gone up 2-0. We need to remember that we are playing a very, very good basketball team and now it becomes a best-of-five series."

Game Three is in Boston on Thursday.

"It's a long series. It's a chess match," O'Neal said. "Whichever team plays best will win. It's going to be physical and it's going to be a long one. We need to go to Boston and get Game Three."

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