Pacers Hold Off Celtics, Boost Playoff Chances
Indiana 117, Boston 112
INDIANAPOLIS, April 12 (Ticker) -- With two plays, Anthony Johnson snuffed out a rally by the Boston Celtics and helped the Indiana Pacers to a much-needed victory.
Johnson came up with a late steal and layup and Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal and Austin Croshere each scored at least 20 points as the Pacers posted a 117-112 victory over the Celtics.
"It's good to put two together," Johnson said of Indiana's first back-to-back wins since early March. "Our defense wasn't up to par, but at the same time, we shared the ball and made timely baskets. It was a much needed win."
Looking to advance to the playoffs for the ninth straight season, the Pacers allowed the Celtics back in the game in the fourth quarter.
Boston went on a 16-2 run to close to within 115-112 with just 60 seconds remaining. Raef LaFrentz buried a 3-pointer from the corner and Tony Allen came up with a steal and a layup to cap the surge.
O'Neal missed a turnaround on Indiana's next possession and the Celtics had the ball with a chance to tie. Paul Pierce picked up his dribble just outside the lane, was doublet-teamed, and Johnson stole the ball.
"I was guarding Tony Allen, who was kind of indecisive about where to go on the play," Johnson said. "With it being a three point game, I knew Paul was going to be aggressive. (Stephen) Jack(son) did a good job riding him and I was able to stick my hand in for the steal."
On the ensuing possession, Johnson drove hard to the rim and scored to make it 117-112 with 19 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points and three steals.
"It was like a broken play," Johnson said. "Whenever a play breaks down, you have to go to your one-on-one game and make something happen. That's what I did and I was able to get to the rim for a free layup."
O'Neal had 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. Croshere scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and Stojakovic scored 25 on 9-of-13 shooting.
"That's what you call hanging on for dear life," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "(Boston) has been tough for us to play all year. It's important for us to get wins now however we can get them. We can't worry about what other teams are doing. What's really important is concentrating on ourselves."
"I don't want to call it that," O'Neal said when asked if this constituted a streak. "I just want to call it a win. We're not in a position to get comfortable."
Pierce scored 30 points and rookie Gerald Green added a season-high 22 for Boston (32-46), which was eliminated from playoff contention.
"As far away as we are, we are still very close to becoming a good team," Celtic coach Doc Rivers said. "When we decided to break this team down last year, letting Antoine (Walker) and Gary (Payton) go, we understood what that would mean. We still hoped to make the playoffs and that's disappointing, but I think this team will be better sooner rather than later."
"I can see from games like this that we are prepared for the future," Pierce said. "A lot of these guys would still be sitting if we weren't thinking about the future."