BOSTON, April 25 (Ticker) --
Larry Bird watched his team dominate and
probably wondered about Celtic pride.
NBA TV highlights from|
scored 22 points, Jermaine O'Neal
had 18 and Reggie Miller
added four timely 3-pointers to lead the Indiana Pacers
to a 90-75 victory over the Boston Celtics and a sweep of their
first-round Eastern Conference series.
The top-seeded Pacers, who had the most wins in the NBA (61),
won all four games by double figures at an average margin of
16.8 points. It was sweet redemption for Indiana, which was
upset in the first round of the playoffs by Boston last season.
Ron Artest led the Pacers with 22 points in the series-clinching win Sunday.|
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
"This is a big step for our franchise," Miller said. "We had a
lot of sleepless nights last year with these same Celtics."
"I got a small monkey off my back as far as getting out of the
first round of the playoffs," said O'Neal in reference to being
eliminated from the playoffs each of the last three years.
Ironically, the only other team to sweep a four-game series with
double-digit wins in each were the Celtics against Houston in
the 1980 conference semifinals. Then, Bird was the NBA Rookie
of the Year and would go on to lead Boston to three NBA titles.
Now, Bird is the president of basketball operations for the
Pacers. His first act after taking over in July was to fire
coach Isiah Thomas and replace him with former Celtic Rick
After a terrific regular season, the Pacers obliterated the
Celtics, who have lost eight consecutive playoff games after
getting swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season
by New Jersey.
Boston really had no chance this time against a superior team.
To indicate Indiana's domination Sunday, the Celtics made just
27 field goals and committed 26 turnovers.
, Boston's best player, was hounded by Artest, the
NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, throughout the series and
shot just 34 percent. He did score 27 points Sunday, but was
just 6-of-17 from the field through three quarters after the
Pacers had opened a 70-52 lead.
"I really have a bad taste in my mouth," Pierce said. "This is
the second year in a row we have been swept on our home court.
I'm very disappointed."
Pierce became so frustrated that he pushed Artest to the floor
with 6:03 left in the first quarter and was called for a
technical foul. Artest also made Pierce work on defense and the
Celtics never had an answer for Indiana's depth inside.
After handing Boston the worst home playoff loss in its storied
history on Friday night - a 108-85 blowout - the Pacers faced
some resistance in the first half but pulled away in the second.
The Celtics built a 31-24 lead after a jumper by rookie Marcus Banks
with 7:51 left in the second quarter, but the Pacers
closed the half with a 22-7 run.
Artest gave the Pacers the lead for good at 37-35 on a 23-footer
with 3:23 left and Miller followed with a free throw and a pair
of 3-pointers. Two free throws by O'Neal with 22 seconds
remaining gave the Pacers a 46-38 halftime advantage.
, who had his best game of the series with 21 points
and 13 rebounds, opened the second half with a layup for Boston,
but Miller ignited and capped a 13-2 run with two more
3-pointers, opening a 59-42 lead with 6:13 left.
A 3-point play by Blount and a layup by Pierce pulled the
Celtics within 59-49, but the Pacers scored the next 11 points,
six of them by Al Harrington
. A jumper by Harrington with 1:34
left in the third gave Indiana its biggest lead at 70-49.
The Celtics pulled no closer than 12 points in the fourth
The attendance was announced at 16,389 at the FleetCenter, about
1,000 shy of a sellout.
Indiana next plays the winner of the series between Miami and
New Orleans in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics qualified for the postseason after finishing with
just a 36-46 record during the regular season, the worst of all
16 NBA playoff teams.
"This year was not pretty," said Celtics director of basketball
operations Danny Ainge, a former teammate of Bird with Boston.
"(The season) wasn't like we envisioned. I thought that we would
win over 40 games but I thought that we would have a tough time
getting out of the first round if we weren't one of the top