INDIANAPOLIS, April 20 (Ticker) -- Al Harrington
did a nice job filling
in for Ron Artest
. Jonathan Bender
did an even nicer job
filling in for Harrington.
Harrington had 12 points and 13 rebounds and Bender scored nine
of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the Indiana
Pacers to a 103-90 victory over the Boston Celtics.
The top-seeded Pacers opened a 2-0 lead in their Eastern
Conference first-round series despite playing without Artest,
their All-Star forward and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Artest was suspended for coming off the bench during a brief
altercation in Game 1, when he hounded Celtics All-Star
forward Paul Pierce
into 5-of-18 shooting and eight turnovers.
His absence left the assignment to Harrington and Bender, a pair
of players who entered the NBA directly out of high school.
Indiana's Fred Jones went 7-for-11 from the field in Game 2.|
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
"Lots of guys contributed (in defending Pierce)" Pacers coach
Rick Carlisle said. "I really have to give credit to Jonathan
Bender for an incredible effort. He has not had to guard a
player of Pierce's caliber all year and he really did a good
"I just tried to use my length. I'm 7 foot, so I just tried to
contest every shot and use my quickness," Bender said. "I just
tried to keep him out of his game. It was a great challenge."
Harrington, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, moved into the
starting lineup and scored 10 points in the second quarter,
keeping Indiana within striking distance. He opened the fourth
quarter with a follow dunk that triggered a decisive run.
"I felt like I played pretty well," Harrington said. "I hit the
glass hard, but I missed a lot of easy shots. ... I felt like I
stepped in and provided what we needed."
Bender, who had an injury-plagued campaign, came alive in the
final period. He attacked the basket, got to the foul line and
even drained a 3-pointer, scoring nine points in a 24-7 surge
that gave Indiana an 89-76 lead with 4:08 to go.
"With Ron out, we had to have some other guys step up and I
think we handled our business," Bender said. "This really shows
how deep of a team we have."
Harrington and Bender made Pierce work for his 27 points. Pierce
made just 7-of-18 shots as he battled foul trouble and did not
get much help from his teammates.
"I don't think it was him (Bender)," Pierce said. "They have a
great defensive system. I got the shots I wanted and got to the
rim when I wanted."
The Pacers also got a huge lift from reserve guard Fred Jones,
who scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. Indiana
scored 38 points in the final period without a basket from
All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal
or veteran guard Reggie Miller
who spent the entire quarter on the bench.
"A number of guys on their bench could probably start anywhere
in this league," said Boston guard Chucky Atkins
, who finished
with 21 points and six assists. "That's why they are the best
in the East. Bender, (Austin) Croshere, Harrington ... it's
almost like bringing in another starting five."
Indiana's bench outscored Boston's by a whopping 43-11,
including 35-3 in the second half.
The eighth-seeded Celtics finished 25 games behind the Pacers
during the season and have looked thoroughly outmanned in the
first two games. They will try to end a six-game playoff losing
streak Friday at Boston.
"We've got to win, it's just that plain and simple," Atkins
The Celtics led by nine points early in the third quarter and
still held a 69-65 lead entering the final period. Bender had a
three-point play and another foul shot and reserves
Croshere and Anthony Johnson
each had a pair of hoops to give
the Pacers a 79-70 advantage.
Bender answered a drive by Atkins with a 3-pointer.
Pierce made a free throw, but Jones drilled a 3-pointer. Pierce
drove for a three-point play, but Bender had a follow shot and
Jones scored for an 89-76 bulge with 4:08 to go.
"We were not a very mature team and it really showed in the
fourth quarter," celtics coach John Carroll said. "It's a
shame, because we had played well until that point."
"I guess our team' true colors came out tonight," Pierce said.
"When you're in a tough game, in a tough environment, in a game
of this magnitude - we didn't have the fortitude to bounce
O'Neal had 22 points and 11 boards for Indiana, which held a
49-38 advantage on the glass.