NBA Playoff Notebook: Indiana is getting a total team effort
(Sports Network) – The Indiana Pacers beat the Boston Celtics, 103-90,
Tuesday in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series without
All-Star forward Ron Artest, who had been suspended for one game by the NBA.
Artest, who was recently-named Defensive Player of the Year, was suspended for
leaving the bench in Game 1 when fellow All-Star Jermaine O’Neal was involved
in a brief scuffle with Boston’s Brandon Hunter. Artest started onto the court
when he saw O’Neal lose his composure, but headed back to the bench after a
O’Neal scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help Indiana take a 2-0
lead in the best-of-seven series. Fred Jones finished with 17 points, while
Jamaal Tinsley netted 15 and Al Harrington chipped in 12 points and 13 boards
in the win.
With Artest unavailable, Harrington started and posted his double-double in 34
minutes of action. Reserve forward Austin Croshere came through with 10 points
in 23 minutes, while Jonathan Bender finished with 11 points and seven boards
in 28 minutes of action.
Indiana players had to step up in Tuesday’s win on the defensive end, as
Artest was not there to guard Boston All-Star Paul Pierce, who scored 27
points on 7-of-18 from the floor and 13-of-16 from the foul line.
“Lots of guys contributed,” said Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle. “I really
have to give credit to Bender for an incredible effort. He has not had to
guard a player of Pierce’s caliber all year and he really did a good job and
got good help from his teammates. Still, Pierce had a Pierce night. He got to
the free throw line over and over again. Fortunately, it was not enough
tonight. You have to shudder when he gets the ball because he gets shots,
creates shots, gets to the rim or gets other guys shots.”
Artest makes Pierce work hard for his points. Boston needs players like Ricky
Davis and Jiri Welsch to step up and take some pressure off of the Kansas
product. Chucky Atkins scored 21 in Tuesday’s loss, but Welsch and Davis
combined for just 16 points on 6-of-18 from the floor.
“Ron makes it hard for Paul to get the ball,” said Boston head coach John
Carroll after Tuesday’s loss. “He bumps, pushes and holds illegally I
might add. But we knew they would load up on him and we did not do a good
enough job as a team to get the ball to other people. I can’t say that
Indiana stopped Paul, he got to the line a lot and scored 27 points; but we
showed as a team we still have some growing up to do.”
Tuesday’s win was huge for Indiana, which has lost five-straight postseason
games on the road. The Pacers showed that they have players who can raise
their game to the next level.
“Very important game and we needed to get the momentum to go to Boston,” said
Bender. “One of the keys was a better defensive effort on our part in the
second half. We all took this and placed it on our shoulders to turn this game
around. It was a total effort and we all got it done.”
After dropping the Game 2 and falling behind 2-0 in the series, Boston could
have some doubts about its ability to win in the postseason.
“We were not a very mature basketball team and it showed in the fourth
quarter,” said Carroll. “It’s a shame because we played well until that point.
I’ve said it over and over again; we can play with Indiana but just not for 48
minutes. To win playoff games, especially on the road, you have to finish
The Pacers will have Artest back for Game 3, which is scheduled to be played
on Friday at the FleetCenter. In Game 1, Artest scored 24 points, grabbed six
rebounds and dished out five assists in 39 minutes of action.