INDIANAPOLIS, April 17 (Ticker) --
The Indiana Pacers shut down Paul Pierce
and kept their cool, two things that didn't happen in
last year's first-round series with the Boston Celtics.
put the clamps on Pierce and the Pacers played
through some rough stuff for an easy 104-88 victory over the
Celtics in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round
NBA TV highlights from|
Last year, the Pacers were upset in the first round by the
Celtics. They were torched by Pierce and lost their cool,
bickering among themselves.
Jermaine O'Neal got the Pacers off to a fast start, scoring 12 of his 24 points in the first quarter.|
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
This season, Indiana won a league-high 61 games and claimed to
be a different team under new coach Rick Carlisle
. The Pacers
proved that as they made quick work of the Celtics.
"We're pleased to get the win," Carlisle said. "We didn't get
off to a good start defensively, but it got better in the second
through fourth quarters. The priority now is to continue with
what we accomplished today."
While scoring 24 points, Artest limited Pierce to 20 on 5-of-18
shooting. Pierce also committed eight turnovers.
"We tried to do some things to keep him off Paul, and early on,
we did a good job of executing our plan," Celtics interim coach
said. "(Artest is) so strong and has good hands.
You can't dribble against him. As the game went on, he just
wore Paul down."
"First game doesn't make a series," said Artest, downplaying his
defensive effort. "We have to stay focused and continue to
play our game to win this."
Artest was one of the Pacers who lost focus last year, getting
into a shoving match with team executive Mel Daniels after a
loss. This time, the Celtics tried to get Jermaine O'Neal
With the Pacers in the midst of a game-breaking run in the
second quarter, Carroll inserted rookie bruiser Brandon Hunter
who baited O'Neal into a technical foul.
"They had just put in a young, strong player and right away he
was throwing an MVP candidate to the floor," Carlisle said. "I
don't like that style of basketball. I reacted, the team
reacted and the fans reacted."
"We knew he was sent in to shake it up. This is the NBA," said
O'Neal, who had 24 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. "Each
team has a person that's supposed to do that. I just have to do
a better job keeping myself focused. If I get thrown out, our
loss is greater than theirs."
A devastating 30-8 run over the last 9 1/2 minutes of the second
quarter opened a 65-43 lead and pretty much sealed the win for
the Pacers. Artest and O'Neal combined for 33 points in the
Indiana also got a big boost from its bench. Al Harrington
his first postseason double-double with 14 points and 10
rebounds, adding five steals. Guard Fred Jones
points on 4-of-5 shooting.
"Al played with great force," Carlisle said. "He was in the
middle of a lot of good things -- loose balls, offensive
rebounds; he gave us a big boost. Fred Jones was aggressive
(and) very impressive for his first playoff game. The second
unit has to play well for us and they did today."
Conversely, the Celtics received nothing meaningful from their
bench. Guard Chucky Atkins
scored 11 of his 19 points in the
first quarter, but when he and Pierce sat down, the offense
"I think putting Paul on the bench triggered it," Carroll said.
Harrington scored eight points in the decisive spurt, scoring on
a follow shot, tip-in, layup and a dunk. O'Neal and Artest had
six points apiece and Reggie Miller
and Jones added 3-pointers.
Indiana led by as many as 29 points in the third quarter and
took a 24-point cushion into the fourth period, when Boston made
the final score a bit more respectable.
The Pacers host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series on Tuesday.
The Celtics have lost five straight playoff games.
"In my experience, when you win the first game by a comfortable
margin, the second game tends to be a war," Carlisle said.