Boston The Celtics and Pacers found themselves in a playoff atmosphere on Friday night.
It was a much more comfortable situation for Indiana.
"There gets to be a point in the game where the playoff experience, or the veteran leadership takes over," said Austin Croshere, who hit the game-winning three-pointer with 38 seconds left to lead the Pacers to a 92-87 victory over Boston.
Croshere scored a career-high 32 points, adding 10 rebounds to help pull the Pacers even with the Celtics in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team has 10 games remaining, including a head-to-head matchup on April 13 in Indianapolis.
"We blew a golden opportunity to go up two games," said Boston forward Paul Pierce, who had 23 points and nine rebounds. "But we're still tied for the eighth spot. There's no need to panic."
The Celtics have won an NBA-record 16 championships, but they haven't made the playoffs since 1995 their last year in the Boston Garden. The Pacers are the defending conference champions, and they haven't missed the postseason since 1997.
"There's absolutely no doubt that tonight was huge," Croshere said. "It was a playoff game, undoubtedly."
The Celtics jumped to a 16-point lead in the first quarter before squandering most of it by halftime. Boston fell behind 79-74 with 6:55 left in the game before mounting a 9-0 run to retake the lead.
Indiana scored seven consecutive points to take an 86-83 lead. Pierce made two free throws and Boston briefly went ahead when Antoine Walker followed Pierce's airball, but Croshere hit a three-pointer to give the Pacers the lead for good.
Pierce missed an ill-chosen three-point attempt that could have won it. The Celtics got the rebound, but Walker missed on Boston's last chance.
Indiana coach Isiah Thomas said that even though his team has its share of veterans, it also has young players like Jermaine O'Neal and Al Harrington who haven't seen the pressure the playoffs can bring.
Kings 110, Timberwolves 98
Sacramento, Calif. Chris Webber scored 22 points and Scot Pollard had 18 points and 13 rebounds as Sacramento clinched a playoff berth. Sacramento (49-22) won its third game in four days while remaining in front of the Los Angeles Lakers for the Pacific Division lead.
Jazz 95, Cavaliers 88
Salt Lake City Karl Malone scored 33 points as Utah beat Cleveland, snapping a three-game losing streak. Malone shot 11-for-19 from the field and 11-for-16 from the line.
Trail Blazers 96, Knicks 79
Portland, Ore. Rasheed Wallace scored 30 points as Portland handed New York its third straight defeat. Bonzi Wells added 16 points.
SuperSonics 94, Clippers 84
Seattle Gary Payton scored 28 points as Seattle beat Los Angeles. The Sonics have won 10 of their last 11 games, including a 94-93 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Nuggets 103, Hornets 96
Charlotte, N.C. Nick Van Exel returned from a two-game absence to score 41 points and lead Denver over Charlotte. Van Exel, who was sidelined by a back injury, stepped up after forward Antonio McDyess left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury..
76ers 102, Warriors 89
Philadelphia Allen Iverson had 35 points and a career-high 11 rebounds to lead Philadelphia over Golden State while Charles Barkley had his jersey retired in the city where he became a star.
Raptors 110, Nets 99
Toronto Vince Carter scored 27 points and Alvin Williams added a career-high 23 as Toronto beat New Jersey, extending its winning streak to four games. Tracy Murray scored 20 for Toronto.
Pistons 100, Magic 97
Auburn Hills, Mich. Jerry Stackhouse scored 31 points and Ben Wallace added 14 points and 21 rebounds as Detroit beat Orlando. Detroit snapped its five-game losing streak and ended its string of 29 straight losses when trailing at halftime.
Lakers 98, Mavericks 89
Los Angeles Shaquille O'Neal went 13-of-17 from the line and scored 35 points as Los Angeles made up for Kobe Bryant's absence with well-balanced scoring. Bryant, his left ankle still sore, has missed five games.