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Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Indiana avoids elimination - Pacers 93, Celtics 88, OT

Boston blanked 5-0 in overtime period

April 30, 2003

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— Never before in an NBA playoff game had a team been held scoreless in overtime. Indiana did it Tuesday night to the Celtics, sending the series back to Boston for Game 6.

Ron Artest had 26 points and 10 rebounds, making the go-ahead free throw in overtime after blocking Paul Pierce's shot at the end of regulation, as Indiana rallied to beat Boston, 93-88, Tuesday night.

History hasn't been kind to teams trailing 3-1 in the NBA playoffs. Indiana though, still has a chance.

"It's a very weak pulse. Obviously it's a little stronger," Reggie Miller said after the Pacers scored all five points in overtime.

The Celtics still lead the series 3-2, and only six teams have come back from 3-1 deficits -- just two since 1981.

"We should have closed it out today," said Boston's Pierce, a former Kansas University standout. "We can't give this team any more breathing room. We took our hands off the choke hold and let them breathe a little bit."

To advance, however, the Pacers will have to rediscover a level of sustained success that's been missing for months. Since they were 37-15 Feb. 14, they've had only one three-game winning streak.

"It's our turn to try and steal a win up there," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "It's our last crack at it."

Jermaine O'Neal had 19 points and 22 rebounds, the latter a team record for a playoff game.

Antoine Walker led the Celtics with 21 points, Tony Delk had 19 and Pierce 16.

"The pressure is still on them," Walker said. "They've got to play that well at our building."

Whether fatigued or nervous, neither team got going offensively in overtime. Boston missed all six field goal attempts and the Pacers were 1-for-10.

The five points by both teams were the second fewest in a playoff overtime.

The difference came at the line, where Boston missed its only two attempts while the Pacers went 3-for-4.

Walker missed two free throws with 1:58 left that would have snapped an 88-88 tie.

Artest got his opportunity on the next possession when he was fouled by Eric Williams with 1:08 left. Artest missed the first but hit the second.

O'Neal added a baseline jumper and Artest clinched it with two free throws with 12 seconds left.

O'Neal continued to dominate for the Pacers. He just missed his second 20-20 game of the series and is on pace to become the third player to average 20 points and 15 rebounds in a postseason since 1992.

"We got Jermaine O'Neal the ball at the right time and the right space, and he made the right shots," said guard Tim Hardaway.

It was Hardaway who gave the Pacers the boost they needed off the bench. After playing only 17 minutes in two playoff games, he hit several clutch shots in the fourth.

Each team missed jumpers in the final minute, and regulation ended with Artest swatting Pierce's shot out of bounds from behind.

Artest scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers shot 73 percent (11-for-15).

After scoring 32 points in the second half of Game 4, Pierce wasn't a factor in the first half of Game 5. He took only three shots, and two of those were airballs on step-back jumpers against Artest.

"It's the same stuff he's been doing all series," Pierce said. "I can't say he's got any new tricks or anything. He's just playing straight-up defense."

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