Pacers fail to advance for third straight season


BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Celtics put together a devastating quarter of basketball -- one game later than they would have liked, but just in time to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Two days after being shut out in overtime, the Celtics opened an
18-point first-quarter lead and coasted to a 110-90 victory over
the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night to win the best-of-seven
series 4-2.

"We were just anxious to get out there,'' said Paul Pierce, who
had 27 points with eight rebounds. "We said, 'We should have ended
the series the other day in Indiana.' We wished we could have that
one back.''

Antoine Walker scored 21 for Boston, which missed the playoffs
for six consecutive years before making it to the Eastern
Conference finals last year and losing to New Jersey. The Celtics
will have to go through the Nets again: they beat Milwaukee 113-101
in Game 6 later Thursday to advance.

Eric Williams had 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench,
and Walter McCarty had 13 points, sinking 3-pointers on the first
two shots of the game as the Celtics got off to a scorching start
and never looked back.

Boston was 13-of-16 from the floor in the first quarter and made
14 consecutive shots in the first half to open a 23-point lead.
They stretched it to 27 points in the third and never led by less
than double digits after Tony Delk's 3-pointer made it 22-10 eight
minutes into the game.

"It was awful good,'' Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said of the
first 12 minutes. "That was awful good basketball.''

Jermaine O'Neal had 25 points and 19 rebounds for Indiana before
he was ejected with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter, along with
Boston's Mark Blount, for a minor altercation.

Indiana has now lost in the first round three times under coach
Isiah Thomas, who got little in this series from All-Star Brad
Miller and future Hall of Famer Reggie Miller.

"I'm disappointed because I let the other 11 guys down,''
Reggie Miller said. "No question about it: It was 100 percent my

"They believe in me so much, and to not come through is tough.
I'm man enough to say, 'I'll put it on my shoulders.'''

Reggie Miller scored eight points on 2-for-8 shooting in what
might have been his last game for the Pacers. He shot only 28
percent from the field in the series.

Brad Miller shot 0-for-4 in Game 6 and had just two points and
two rebounds in 14 minutes.

Ron Artest scored 20 before fouling out late in the fourth,
chipping a tooth on the play.

Indiana stretched the series to six games by rallying from a
nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit in Game 5 to force overtime.
Once there, the Pacers held the Celtics scoreless.

The Celtics scored their first basket 50 seconds into the game,
ending a scoreless streak that covered the last 2:02 of regulation
and all five minutes of overtime during Game 5 in Indiana, which
the Pacers won 93-88.

And they just kept scoring.

They opened a 14-4 lead and led 33-15 at the end of one,
shooting 5-for-6 from 3-point range. Indiana was 6-for-27 from the

Tony Battie blocked two shots on one trip with 3:30 left in the
first quarter. The second sprung Delk for a fast-break jumper that
gave Boston a 24-10 lead.

The Celtics posted a 19-5 run to open a 23-point lead, 40-17,
with 10:20 left in the half, making 14 consecutive shots in the
first and second quarters.

Boston led by as many as 27, 74-47, with 2:20 minutes left in
the third after a basket and 3-pointer sent Walker into his
trademark wiggle.

The Pacers cut the deficit to 92-79 with 6:04 to play in the
game, but Blount hit a pair of free throws and Pierce made a
pull-up jumper. After Artest made one of two free throws, Delk hit
a 3-pointer to make it 101-84 and the game was all but over.

Game notes
O'Neal stayed down for a minute after a hard but clean foul
from Pierce with 5:26 left in the second quarter. He did not leave
the game. ... O'Neal had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first
half. ... The Celtics cooled off in the second quarter, shooting
just 7-for-24 from the floor.