Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 11/5

Game 1: Friday, November 5th
Game 2: Tuesday, November 23rd
Game 3: Wednesday, January 26th

Pacers 86

(20-20, 10-12 away)

Celtics 100

(20-22, 14-6 home)

Coverage: FSMW

7:00 PM ET, January 26, 2005

TD Garden, Boston, MA

1 2 3 4 T
IND 28 20 20 1886
BOS 26 23 28 23100

Top Performers

Ind: J. O'Neal 24 Pts, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 Blk

Bos: P. Pierce 23 Pts, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl

Jackson scores 17 after 30-game suspension

BOSTON (AP) -- Strike up the bland: The Boston Celtics are all alone in first place in the NBA's Atlantic Division.

"If you win two in a row, you're automatically in first place in the Atlantic Division. It's in the agreement, you know," coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday night after the Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 100-86. "Hell, you lose two in a row and you can be in first place in the Atlantic Division."

The Celtics are leading the division at two games below .500, passing Philadelphia after the 76ers lost 117-107 to the Washington Wizards. The Celtics hadn't been in first this late in the season since Larry Bird was still playing.

That was at the end of the 1990-91 season, and the Celtics were 56-26. These Celtics are 20-22.

"It's good to be on top of the division, which puts us in the No. 3 seed" for the playoffs, said Paul Pierce, who scored 23. "But even though we're in first place, we're not playing like a first-place team."

Raef LaFrentz had 12 points with 11 rebounds, Gary Payton had 10 points with nine assists and Ricky Davis scored 18 as a reserve to spoil Stephen Jackson's return from a 30-game brawl suspension.

Jackson scored 17 points in 38 minutes in his first game back since the Nov. 19 melee against Detroit, when Ron Artest went into the stands seeking a fan who threw a cup at him. Jackson followed Artest into the crowd and took several swings at fans.

Jermaine O'Neal scored 25 for the Pacers.

Jackson hit the Pacers' first basket of the night -- a 3-pointer in the first two minutes -- and scored eight points in the first quarter. But he went 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the next three quarters and scored just six points in the second half.

"I felt like a kid. I'm back and I'm happy to be back," he said. "I was pumped, excited to be out there. But as the game went on, my shots fell shorter and shorter from the rim. You have to be out there to get in shape."

Boston won its fourth consecutive home game a night after snapping a nine-game road losing streak. The Celtics had lost seven consecutive games to the Pacers, including a four-game sweep in the first round of last year's playoffs

"At times, you have to be a 'not tonight' team," Rivers said. "You say, 'If you're better than us or not, you're not going to beat us."

The Celtics went on 12-2 run at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, taking an 82-68 lead on Jiri Welsch's 3-pointer with 9:56 to play. The Pacers called a timeout and came back to score 13 of the next 15 points, making it 84-81 on Austin Croshere's second 3-pointer of the run with 6:20 left.

After a timeout, the Celtics scored the next five points while holding the Pacers scoreless for 3:36 and allowing just three points over a six-minute span.

The Pacers and Celtics last played on Nov. 23, four days after the brawl and with Indiana missing four suspended players: Jackson, Artest, Anthony Johnson and Jermaine O'Neal. Now everyone is back except Artest, who remains suspended through the end of the season.

Game notes

Celtics center Al Jefferson left the game with 3:11 left in the first quarter with a high ankle sprain. X-rays were negative but he is expected to miss at least four weeks, Rivers said. ... Jamaal Tinsley sat out with a sinus flu and Jonathan Bender missed the game with a sore right knee. ... Celtics center Walter McCarty said he wants to be traded because he isn't getting any playing time. The Phoenix Suns are reportedly interested.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 86 100
FGM-FGA 30-68 (.441) 34-73 (.466)
3PM-3PA 5-18 (.278) 10-16 (.625)
FTM-FTA 21-31 (.677) 22-30 (.733)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-32 9-41
Assists 15 25
Turnovers 15 12
Steals 6 10
Blocks 6 3
Fast Break Points 2 11
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 28 (0/0)
Largest Lead 6 16

Top Performers

Jermaine O'Neal O'Neal
Points: 24
Reb: 6
Ast: 2
Stl: 2
Blk: 4
Paul Pierce Pierce
Points: 23
Reb: 8
Ast: 4
Stl: 2
Blk: 0