Boston wins series 4-2 (Game 1 of 6)

Boston wins series 4-2

Game 1: Saturday, April 19th
Game 2: Monday, April 21st
Game 3: Thursday, April 24th
Game 4: Sunday, April 27th
Game 5: Tuesday, April 29th
Game 6: Thursday, May 1st

Celtics 103

(44-38, 19-22 away)

Pacers 100

(48-34, 32-9 home)

    2:00 PM ET, April 19, 2003

    Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

    1 2 3 4 T
    BOS 26 26 17 34103
    IND 29 29 21 21100

    Top Performers

    Bos: P. Pierce 40 Pts, 11 Reb, 6 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

    Ind: M. World Peace 26 Pts, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Stl

    Pierce scores 21 in fourth to leave Pacers dismayed

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- For the first 3½ quarters, Paul Pierce was off-target and the Boston Celtics appeared overmatched.

    By the end, Pierce had changed everything.

    Pierce scored 21 of his 40 points in the final quarter, leading Boston back from a 13-point deficit in the final 7½ minutes as the Celtics rallied past the Indiana Pacers 103-100 in Game 1 of their first-round series.

    "I thought we did a good job of putting me in position to drive,'' said Pierce. "I was able to get to the basket every time. I knew I could beat my man.''

    Pierce's primary defender was Ron Artest before he fouled out with 40 seconds left. That the Pacers scrambling to contain Pierce, whose 3-pointer with 27.5 seconds left put the Celtics ahead 99-97.

    Pierce also went 21-for-21 from the free throw line, setting an NBA playoff record for most free throws made without a miss.

    Pierce blamed his slow start on illness. Bothered by a sore throat and fatigue, he missed 15 of 19 shots in the first three quarters.

    "My legs were weak. I didn't have any spring in my shots,'' Pierce said. "I just stuck with it. I said 'At least I can make some free throws and rebound.'''

    Pierce did finish with 11 rebounds, but it was his free-throw shooting that made up most for his off-night from the floor. His 11 free throws in the fourth were two shy of the most ever made in one playoff quarter. They were Boston's only free throws in the quarter.

    "He was just putting his head down, going to the basket and going to the foul line,'' Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "It seemed every time he went into the air, he went to the foul line.''

    Indiana, just as it did over the course of the regular season, faded after a fast start. The Pacers made only four field goals in the fourth, giving the Celtics plenty of chances to rally.

    Antoine Walker, who scored 22 points, hit a couple of 3-pointers early in the quarter to pull Boston within seven. The Pacers pushed the lead back to 13, 88-75, after five straight points by Ron Artest.

    That's when Pierce took over.

    He sank four straight free throws to make it 93-89, then added a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:31 remaining to make it 95-94.

    Jermaine O'Neal's jumper clanged off the front of the rim and Pierce grabbed the rebound. He was quickly fouled by Artest with 40.8 seconds left, with Artest arguing that a jump ball should have been called. Pierce had 11 rebounds.

    It was Artest's sixth personal foul and Pierce hit the free throws, giving the Celtics a 96-95 lead. Brad Miller would quickly regain the lead for Indiana with two free throws.

    That set up Pierce's final heroics. He drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the arc over the outstretched arm of a charging Miller for a 99-97 lead.

    Al Harrington's baseline 3-pointer rimmed out, and Pierce added two more free throws.

    "I was very shocked it came out,'' Harrington said.

    Jamaal Tinsley hit a 3-pointer for the Pacers to make it 101-100, but Pierce made his last two free throws. Jonathan Bender wasn't close with a heave from beyond midcourt at the final buzzer.

    Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night.

    "When the game is on the line, we want the ball in each other's hands,'' Walker said of his relationship with Pierce.

    Eric Williams scored 18 points for Celtics and Tony Delk added 12.

    Artest led the Pacers with 26 points, O'Neal had 24 and Tinsley 14.

    The Pacers can take solace in one fact. They have won Game 1s each of the past two years but didn't advance.

    "As you know, Game 1 doesn't tell the story,'' O'Neal said.

    O'Neal said anything less than an NBA Finals appearance would be a disappointment for Indiana. Instead, the Pacers continued to play like they did most of the second half when they lost 15 of 20 in one stretch.

    "I think sometimes you get a little too comfortable,'' said Reggie Miller. "In playoff basketball, that's when you've got to turn up the intensity. They were never out of it because of their longball. I don't think we recognized that as well as we should.''

    Perhaps it was because Boston gave Indiana little reason to fear its league-best 3-point shooting early.

    The Pacers led by as many as 12 in the first half as Pierce and Walker could never get untracked. The two went 8-for-24 in the half and Boston, which led the league in 3-pointers made and attempts, missed seven of 10.

    Boston rediscovered its stroke in the second half, making six of 13.

    "We've got to put teams away. That's it. Just put them away,'' Artest said.

    The Celtics played the second half without center Tony Battie, who was ejected early in the second quarter after committing a flagrant-2 foul on Artest.

    Artest was going up for a layup on a three-on-two fast break when Battie knocked him to the floor. Artest, who led the league in flagrant fouls, immediately popped back up and was quickly separated by teammates and an official. Artest pushed a television camera close to his face.

    Artest kicked Battie on the side of his head on the previous possession while going for a rebound.

    Game notes

    The season series was split, with each team winning twice at home. ... The Pacers and Celtics have met twice before in the playoffs, both in the first round. The Celtics eliminated Indiana both times, 3-2 in 1991 and 3-0 in 1992. ... Utah's Karl Malone went 18-for-18 from the line against the Lakers in 1997. ... The Pacers lost the first game of a first-round series for the first time since 1996 against Atlanta. ... The Pacers are 1-4 in their last five home playoff games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 103 100
    FGM-FGA 34-78 (.436) 32-72 (.444)
    3PM-3PA 9-23 (.391) 5-21 (.238)
    FTM-FTA 26-28 (.929) 31-40 (.775)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-39 11-41
    Assists 21 24
    Turnovers 10 16
    Steals 7 7
    Blocks 4 4
    Fast Break Points 4 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (0/1) 28 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Paul Pierce Pierce
    Points: 40
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 1
    Metta World Peace World Peace
    Points: 26
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 0