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Boston 110, Indiana 90
Celtics Start Quick, Finish off Pacers

Paul Pierce posted 27 points as the Celts eliminated the Pacers.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

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BOSTON, May 1 (Ticker) -- A quick start by the Boston Celtics finished off the Indiana Pacers.

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The Celtics made 14 straight shots in the first half and stormed into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 110-90 victory over the Indiana Pacers, closing out the first-round series in six games.

The sixth-seeded Celtics advanced to the conference semifinals for the second straight year and will face the second-seeded New Jersey Nets. Last year, they lost to the Nets in six games in the conference finals.

Paul Pierce scored 27 points for Boston, which made surprisingly easy work of Indiana. The Celtics set the tone for the series with a huge comeback win in Game 1, turned the trick again in Games 3 and 4 and countered the inside strength advantage of the Pacers with perimeter shooting and experience.

"They're such a big physical team that if you have to grind out your half court offense against them, they can make life miserable for you," Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said.

"I just think with the veteran guys we have around here and going through what we went through last year, we understand what it takes," Pierce said.

It was the third straight first-round exit for the third-seeded Pacers, who have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA but appear to be lacking the veteran leadership needed to win in the postseason.

"We are a team that likes to put the ball inside and when we don't have a chance to put it inside and they close down the inside lanes, then it opens up perimeter shots for us and we just weren't able to knock down shots from the perimeter," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "I think that you have to give them a lot of credit. They exposed that we couldn't hold leads," said Pacers veteran guard Reggie Miller, who had a poor series. "They are the ones that came back from 16 or 17 down in Game One and won that. I think we had every opportunity in Games Three, Four and tonight to get back into the series and we never did."

Indiana's youthful immaturity showed after the game, when temperamental forward Ron Artest got into a brief shoving match with Pacers executive Mel Daniels.

The Celtics made their last 11 shots of the first quarter, opening a 33-15 lead. They sank their first three attempts of the second period, including a turnaround jumper by Mark Blount that pushed the advantage to 40-17.

"It was awful good," O'Brien said. "That was awful good basketball."

Clearly unnerved, the Pacers got no closer than 13 points thereafter and trailed by as many as 27 late in the third quarter. The toughness they displayed during the first half of the season was nowhere to be found.

Antoine Walker scored 21 points for Boston, which shot 48 percent (40-of-83) overall, including 12-of-25 from the arc. They never trailed and committed just seven turnovers.

Jermaine O'Neal had 25 points and 19 rebounds before being ejected for Indiana, which shot just 29 percent (25-of-85). It never has beaten Boston in three postseason series, all in the first round.

"Losing and not advancing is always frustrating and we have the entire summer to think about it," O'Neal said.

Walter McCarty made a pair of 3-pointers to open the game and set the tone. Tony Delk had a pair of 3-pointers 62 seconds apart midway through the period and J.R. Bremer made one with 1:22 to go. In the first period, Boston made 13-of-16 shots, including 5-of-6 from the arc.

"We got guys who can shoot the ball on this team," McCarty said. "That's the type of team that we've built. If Antoine and Paul are getting doubled, that's how we try to beat teams and fortunately we've been able to do that."

Bremer made a jumper and Pierce had a three-point play to open the second quarter and give the Celtics a 38-15 bulge.

"We were feeding off of emotion," Walker said. "Guys were looking for one another and taking the open shots. Nobody was forcing anything."

"They came out blazing," Pacers forward Al Harrington said. "They shot 81 percent in the first quarter and that's unheard of. That was the last thing that we needed."

The Pacers closed to 50-34 at halftime as the Celts missed their last eight shots. But a layup and 3-pointer by Walker gave Boston its largest lead at 74-47 with 2:33 left in the third quarter.

Delk scored 15 points, McCarty added 13 and Bremer 12 for the Celtics. Artest scored 20 points and Erick Strickland and Jonathan Bender added 12 each for the Pacers.

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