That said, the Cís were looking to keep the momentum rolling after their game one finish, while the Pacers were trying very hard not to look like complete idiots. The questions were simple. Could Indiana use their size and depth to overcome the Celticsóand their own coachís shortcomings? Or would the Cís find more firepower to compliment Walker and Pierce? Would Pierce overcome his cold to find the fourth quarter form of last Saturday, or be the guy who shot badly through the first three quarters?
Basically, who would execute better? The
talking and prognostications were done with. If the Celtics won this
game, no one could call it ďluckĒ. If the Pacers wanted to regain
respect, they had to win respectably, meaning they had to appear in total
control for 48 minutes. A close game would only add fuel to the fires
lit beneath Isiah Thomasí metaphorical feet. People had begun to
seriously question whether the Pacers had what it would take to make a
playoff run. The Celtics, on the other paw, had only to show they
could keep up, though theyólike myselfówanted more. To win, for the
second game in a row, in the Pacerís place, and go to Boston up 2-0.
Then some of the naysayers might reconsider their rashness.
OíNeal took the jump over Battie, but missed his first shot. Pierce took the rebound and got it to Tony Delk, whose jumper also missed, with Jermaine OíNeal taking that rebound. The teams traded a couple more misses before Ron Artest drove to the hoop for two, only to have Tony Delk get the ball out to Pierce for a Jumper to tie the score.
Brad Miller made a shot, and then fouled Eric Williams, who made both at the line, no doubt inspired by Paul Pierce. The teams traded some more quick misses before OíNeal slammed the ball through the hoop. Williams tried to answer, but got stuffed by Ron Artest. Tinsley shot and made the gameís first three, then Pierce lost the ball on a steal, resulting in a layup for Artest. The teams traded misses and rebounds until OíNeal hit a turnaround jump shot, occasioning the first timeout by Boston with 7:20 left in the quarter, and Indiana having jumped out to a 13-4 lead.
After the timeout, Walker rebounded an Eric Williams miss for two. Reggie Miller announced his presence with a deep two, and Pierce was stripped of the ball again. Miller turned that into a dunk. Antoine hit another of those fade away hooks, but Eric Williams sent Miller to the free throw line, where both were made.
After Tony Battieís jumper missed, OíNeal went inside again and got two more. Then it was Walkers turn to give the ball away on a traveling violation, after which they were hit with a delay of game warning. Miller fired up the ball to OíNeal for an alley-oop for two more, before Boston called time with 4:43 left and the Pacer lead now bulging out to 23-8. It was starting to look like a really, really long night for Celtics fans.
Following the timeout, Williams, Delk, and Battie were replaced by McCarty, Bremer, and Blount, in the hopes that one of them might a) remember how to stop OíNeal, and b) remember where the basket was. Bremer got into the swing of things by committing a quick foul. Ron Artest hit a jumper, and while Pierce held on to the ball this time, it didnít do him any good as he missed. The teams traded possessions once more with no change in scoring until Blount was called for illegal defense and Indiana hit the technical.
Waltah made himself instantly lovable by stuffing Ron Artestís shot. I LOVE WALTAH!! Pierce then hit a jumper, stole the ball from Miller on the next possession and got a layup, and made the free throw. Thatís fast work. Pierce also answered Tinsleyís jumper with a finger roll. Waltah hit a three, then Bremer stole the ball from Artest, passed to Pierce, who got it to Walker for three more. OíNeal and Waltah traded jumpers, but the Pacers closed out the quarter with a dunk from OíNeal to give Indiana a 33-24 lead.
The shooting for Boston in the first quarter wasnít
bad, 9-20 at 45.0%. The problem was, the Pacers were 14-22 for 63.6%.
The threes were about even, as the Cís went 3-8 for 37.5%, and Indiana
was 2-4 and 50.0%. Both teams were, to this time, perfect at the
line, with 3-3 each. The Pacers had the edge in
fast break points, 8-6; as well as paint points, 16-10.; and rebounds, 10-9. Boston did get the turnover edge, 4-2.
Statistically, the quarter wasnít as close as it played, as the Pacers came out blistering hot, and the Cís werenít able to stem the tide as Indiana had a large double-digit lead. What gave me hope was that the Good Guys came back and made it look more respectable, but it appeared that Pierce was still suffering the effects of that cold.
Al Harrington opened up the quarter by committing a foul. Pierce missed his first free throw in two games by going 1-1 at the line, making the second. Blount then committed a foul going the other way. Justice prevailed as OíNeal also went 1-2. Artest and Strickland replaced Miller and Tinsley, while Battie replaced Blount.
Antoine stole the ball from Artest, but missed the layup. Waltah was there to convert for two plus the free throw as Artest fouled him. Then Bremer got called for his second foul, bringing Delk back in. Strickland made both, and Pierce was unable to answer as Indiana rebounded his miss.
The Pacers crashed the boards and got OíNeal another basket. Antoine replied with a three. The teams traded a couple of misses until Delk hit a deep two, and the Pacers turned the ball over on an offensive foul. That led to an official timeout with 8:25 left in the half and the Pacers lead cut down to 38-33.
Ron Mercer came in for Harrington, and Eric Williams gave Waltah a rest as play continued. Mercer hit a deep two, and Walker was called for an offensive foul as he tried to answer. The Bat-Man then stuffed OíNeal, and the Cís crashed the offensive boards, but couldnít drop the ball in. Tony Battie then got called for a foul, sending Croshere to the line. He hit both. The teams traded possessions before Battie hit a hook shot. Then the teams went back to not making shots, as everyone took quick jumpers. Finally, with 4:48 left, Indiana called timeout with the score now 42-35.
Following the timeout, Delkís two made free throws were matched by Reggie Millerís layup. Walker had sat in favor of Grant Long and Strickland sat for Miller. 48 seconds later, Walker was back in, and Waltah replaced Battie. Antoine sent Artest to the line, where he went 1-2. Walker made up for it by feeding the ball to Williams for a layup. Then Pierce got the ball out to Waltah, who made the three, making Indiana take a 20-second timeout with 2:49 left as the lead had dwindled to a mere three points, or as they Cís say, one possession.
After the quick timeout, Boston called a regular timeout, so everyone had a chance to catch their breath before the final run of the half. Tinsley came in for Miller, and play continued. Tony Delk picked up his second defensive rebound and got it to Walker, who missed the shot. Tinsley hit a reverse layup, and Waltahís attempt to answer was stopped by OíNeal. Ron Artest made it a three point conversion. Boston called a 20-second timeout with 1:22 left and sent Williams in for Blount with the score now 50-42.
Delk hit a deep two off a feed from Pierce. Then Boston crashed the offensive boards to get Waltah a layup. Unfortunately, Waltah committed a foul going the other way and Miller responded with two made free throws. Walker hit a running jumper, then OíNeal answered with a layup with time running out. The Pacers were able to force a 5 second violation on Blount, who then stole it back as the half ended. The Pacers held the lead at 54-48.
Things improved from the field, as by this time, the Cís were 18-43 for 41.9%, and the Pacers came back to earth a bit, going 20-42 for 47.6%. Boston was slightly ahead on threes, having hit 5-12 for 41.7% as the Pacers were 3-10 for 30.0%, as they obviously went inside more. The Pacers were building a lead in free throws, 11-13 for 84.6%, whilst the Cís were 7-8 for 87.5%. Amazingly, the Cís held the edge in fast break points, 12-11, while the Pacers had a lead in paint points, 24-18, that nullified the fast break. Indiana held a 23-22 rebounding edge, while the Cís had a 6-5 lead in turnovers.
I thought the first quarter would kill me, as the Pacers looked to run up the score. Then the fearless Celtics dug in and held on in the second, making a game of it. The stats werenít all that bad by halftime, as the Celtics made up a LOT of ground in the second quarter. But the adjustments still needed to be made. The most glaring defensive problem remained Jermaine OíNeal, though he seemed to get at least somewhat impeded in the second quarter. Offensively, the Cís needed more help. Pierce and Walker were 9-19, and the rest of the team was 9-24. If Waltah wasnít shooting as well as he was, it would be a lot worse. In the second half, the Cís would absolutely HAVE to have more scoring, either from Pierce or the rest of the team. I figured at 5-10 and 2-2 from the arc, Walker was doing his part already.
So I reasoned a six-point deficit at halftime wasnít so badóprovided the Cís came out on fire in the third and held on in the fourth. I thought that if the Cís could build and hold a lead, it would demoralize the Pacers. Letís face it, theyíd obviously tried to bury the Good Guys from the opening minutes, and it hadnít worked. Now it was going to be a close game, and the Cís had built some momentum. Boston had their opening. The question was, could they make it work?
Battie opened up the second half scoring off and assist from Eric Williams. Miller responded with a deep two. Then the teams stole the ball from each other on consecutive possessions. Then Pierce got the ball to Battie on the alley-oop dunk. Indiana called timeout with 7:39 left. The score was now 56-52, Pacers lead.
Following the timeout, Battie got another defensive rebound. Pierceís three was answered by Millerís two. Pierce then went 1-2 at the line. Then Williams and Battie got called for fouls in quick order. Williams was called again, and Artest went to the line, going 1-2, with Battie rebounding the miss and scoring at the other end. Miller got it back at the other end, plus a free throw as Pierce was called on the way. The teams traded misses, until Miller hit another layup. With 3:04 left in the quarter, Boston called timeout as Indiana maintained the lead at 64-58.
When play went back in, Pierce had been called for a technical foul (reason unknown, I donít get NBAtv, remember?) Miller hit the free throw, and then Walker hit a shot for three at the other end. Indiana called timeout with 2:11 left in the third, and the score 65-61.
With time back in, Tinsley hit a three, then Artest stuffed Pierce at the other end. Battie took the rebound from Artestís block and Walker picked up his third foul sending Miller back to the line. Blount, McCarty, and Bremer replaced Battie, Williams and Delk. The teams traded possessions before Bremer hit a reverse layup and a jump shot on successive possessions to close out the third quarter. Indiana still led, 70-65.
Bostonís woes from the field were worse, as they went 25-64 for 39.1%, while the Pacers kept up at their end, going 25-56 for 44.6%. The threes helped the Good Guys somewhat as they shot 7-19 for 36.8%, and the Pacers were only 4-14 for 28.6%. But the Pacers didnít need the three. Not when they were 16-19 at the line for 84.2%, as Boston was 8-10 for 80%. The Pacers also held a 14-12 edge in fast break points, a 28-22 edge in paint points, and a 34-32 edge in rebounding. At least, the Cís let Indiana have more turnovers, 10-8.
The teams went right at each other to open the quarter, with Pierce rebounding Artestís miss. Then Walker and Artest traded layups. Pierce picked up his second foul, sending OíNeal to the free throw line. He made both, and then Waltah made a reverse layup at the other end. Croshere replied with a deep two. Then, Pierce picked up his third foul as timeout was called with 8:42 left in the game. Indiana led 76-69.
Following the timeout, Bremer came in for Delk as OíNeal hit both free throws. He then rebounded the Delk miss at the other end. Boston had several more chances to score before Harrington stole the ball from Pierce. Indiana called Timeout with 7:42left as they maintained their 78-69 lead.
Williams came in for Battie, and Miller for Harrington. Eric made himself useful by stealing the ball from Miller, but the Cís werenít able to convert. Then Tinsley hit another jumper. Delk went to the line on the next possession, making 1-2, as OíNeal took the rebound on the miss. Delk and OíNeal then traded shots. Then Croshere blocked Waltahís jumper, and Tinsley sent Delk to the line. Tony made both, and play continued.
Miller then nailed a three, and the Cís called timeout with 3:03 left and the Pacer lead now 86-74.
After the timeout, Croshere sent Antoine to the line, where he made both. The teams traded possessions down to the two-minute mark as Walker picked up his fourth and fifth fouls. Croshere hit a layup and then Walker and OíNeal were hit with double technicals. Tinsley hit two from the line on a Delk foul, and went 1-2 as Walker took the rebound with one minute left. Delk and Artest traded steals, with no one able to score for either team. Delk finally went to the line, making 1-2 to close out the game as Indiana won it, 89-77.
At the end, the Cís just werenít quite as good
as the Pacers, going 28-78 for 35.9%, while the Pacers were 31-73 for 42.5%
from the field. Boston was 7-26 from the arc for 26.9%, the Pacers
went 6-21 for 28.6%.
Free throws also went Indianaís way, 21-25 for 84%, while Boston was 14-18 for 77.8%. Boston had a 16-14 lead in fast break points, but Indiana had a 34-28 edge in paint points, and a 48-42 rebounding edge. Indiana ended up with 13 turnovers to Bostonís 11.
The difference was, simply, in the scoring, especially inside. The Pacers put five people in double figures and ran the court at every opportunity. They also had more trips to the line and made the most of them. This was, unfortunately, the kind of game Indiana wanted to play, and they played it well.
Boston got caught out at the start, and never quite recovered from the Pacers opening salvo from the field. The Celtics took more shots, but didnít make enough of them to matter in the end. Despite the withering opening quarter, the Celtics had their chances to win this one, and missed the opportunity to go up 2-1 coming back to Boston.
Now, the Good Guys will travel home to await the next game, which, I remind everyone, has a ridiculous 6:00pm start on a Thursday night. Thanks a lot, TNT. :>(
And thatís the view from the doghouse.