INDIANAPOLIS, April 21 (Ticker) --
The Indiana Pacers did not allow Paul
to burn them down the stretch this time.
contributed 23 points and 20 rebounds and Reggie
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
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."
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
"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
Walker paced Boston with 19 points and reserve Walter McCarty
"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."