INDIANAPOLIS, April 30 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce
showed the Boston Celtics
also know how to deal with adversity.
Picking up the slack for the suspended Antoine Walker
enjoyed a huge all-around game to lead the Celtics to 110-79
rout of the Indiana Pacers that evened their Eastern Conference
first-round matchup at two wins apiece.
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The third-seeded Celtics easily won the series opener, then
dropped the next two contests against a Pacers team that has
battled adversity for virtually the entire season.
"I didn't think we fought the last two games," Celtics coach
said. "This team has fought through adversity very well.
It is when they get comfortable, that they scare the (heck)
out of me."
In Game Three, the Celtics lost their cool down the stretch,
culminating in Walker tossing referee Tom Washington aside after
an altercation with Jermaine O'Neal
. That incident led to
Walker being suspended for this contest.
Without Walker, Pierce more than lived up to his star status,
collecting 30 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five
"This is a competitive group, one of the most most competitive
I've ever been around," Pierce said. "Guys just can't accept
losing. With Antoine gone and us being down, we knew we had to
treat this like an elimination game. I think that's how we have
treat the rest of the series."
Sparked by Pierce, who made 10-of-15 shots, the Celtics never
trailed and led by as many as 34 points in the fourth quarter.
Less than four minutes into the fourth quarter, the crowd at
Conseco Fieldhouse started heading for the exits.
"I knew, without one of our big scorers playing, I had to be
more aggressive than I was in the last two games," Pierce said.
"At the same time, I knew I had to stay within the flow and not
force things. If it wasn't there, I swung the ball, and it was,
I stayed aggressive. That's why I'm a scorer."
"Paul did a great job of taking shots when he had them," Rivers
said. "He was aggressive and got to the basket. He got us the
shots we needed. Whether that was creating them for himself or
Pierce and Ricky Davis
, who started in Walker's place, each
scored eight points in the first quarter as the Celtics built a
31-20 lead. Pierce scored 15 more points in the second quarter
which ended with Boston holding a 56-47 lead.
Davis scored 15 points and Delonte West
, inserted into the
starting lineup in place of fellow rookie Tony Allen
, added 14
for the Celtics, who shot 57 percent (42-of-74).
"We weren't really worried about playing without Antoine," said
West, who made all five of his shots. "This, after all, is a
team sport, not an individual sport."
Boston, which went to a smaller lineup to quicken the pace,
placed all five starters in double figures.
"I thought the reason we scored so much was because we didn't
force shots and really set the tempo," Rivers said.
"Doc (Rivers) made great lineup adjustments," Pacers coach
said. "They wanted to bring speed to the game. They
really blew by us, right from the beginning."
The Celtics host Game Five on Tuesday.
It was a night of futility for the Pacers, who shot a woeful 27
percent (21-of-78) in the worst playoff loss in club history.
Indiana came within two field goals of matching the fewest in
NBA playoff history, accomplished on two other occasions.
scored 24 points to lead the Pacers.
"We knew it was going to be a very tough game," said Pacers
forward Jermaine O'Neal, who scored just nine points on 4-of-15
shooting. "When you lose one of your guys, some teams come out
and play harder."
buried consecutive 3-pointers and a free throw,
pulling the Pacers within 58-56 with 7:49 left in the third
quarter. But that was as close as they got as the Celtics began
to pull away without the help of Pierce, who went scoreless in
the third quarter.
made a turnaround jumper and layup around a
19-footer by Davis to trigger a 14-2 surge. Payton capped the
burst with a driving layup for a 72-58 lead with 3:21 left in
Payton had 14 points and six rebounds, while also guarding
sharpshooter Reggie Miller
for much of the night. Miller scored
just 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
"Personally, I thought they would move Gary (Payton) to me,"
Miller said. "With the small lineup, they were switching a lot,
so I think we're going to have to look at the tape and make some
added 14 points for the Celtics, who outscored the
Pacers, 48-22, in the paint.
Leading 78-63 after three quarters, the Celtics turned the game
into a rout in the fourth, using a 16-3 run over the first 5:18
of the period.
The Pacers went the first 7:59 of the fourth quarter without a
basket. They also were held without a basket for more than six
minutes at one point in the first quarter.
After Miller's 3-pointer pulled the Pacers within 35-32 with
8:15 left in the first half, Pierce took over as he scored 12
points in a 17-6 surge that rebuilt the lead to double digits.