Partly Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EDT Thu May 1, 2003
  • TV: TBS

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Celtics lead 3-2.

After staving off elimination at home, the Indiana Pacers look to keep the Boston Celtics from celebrating at the FleetCenter when the teams meet for Game 6 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Pacers managed to keep their season alive by outlasting the Celtics, 93-88, in overtime on Tuesday. Indiana won by holding Boston scoreless in overtime, marking the first time in modern NBA playoff history that a team failed to record a point in the extra period.

Indiana enjoyed a strong game on Tuesday from forward Ron Artest, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds. Artest scored 10 in the fourth quarter and played tenacious defense on Celtics’ star Paul Pierce.

Artest limited Pierce to just 3-of-10 shooting in the fourth as the Pacers came back from a nine-point deficit to force overtime.

“It’s the same stuff he’s been doing all series,” Pierce said. “I can’t say he’s got any new tricks or anything. He’s just playing straight-up defense.”

The win gave the Pacers hope, though they will need more than that in order to win in Boston. Indiana was outscored 203-175 in its two losses last week at the FleetCenter, and only six teams have come back from 3-1 deficits.

“We should have closed it out today,” Pierce said. “We can’t give this team any more breathing room. We took our hands off the choke hold and let them breathe a little bit.”

History may not be the only thing working against the Pacers, considering how difficult it has been for the team to win three straight games in the last two months. After starting the year with a 37-15 record, Indiana had only one three-game winning streak the rest of the way.

In fact, Tuesday’s game may be more a sign of the way things could have been for the Pacers, who were considered by many to be the favorite in the series before it started.

“I am officially done talking about last night,” Celtics coach Jim O’Brien said Wednesday. “It’s nice to be playing an opponent that everybody thought was going to beat you in five and you’re in Game 6 at home with a chance to win.”

One thing that the Pacers do have going for them in Boston is the veteran leadership of backup point guard Tim Hardaway, who had eight points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s win. Hardaway, signed last month after spending most of the season as a TV analyst, was a member of the 1997 Miami Heat team that overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat New York.

“Tim saved us,” Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. “In these type of situations where a lot of our players are walking into uncharted waters, you need someone out there who has done it, understands it and is not really rattled by it.”

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Pacers - 48-34, 3rd seed. Celtics - 44-38, 6th seed.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Pacers - F Jermaine O’Neal, F Artest, C Brad Miller, G Jamaal Tinsley, G Reggie Miller. Celtics - F Walter McCarty, F Antoine Walker, C Tony Battie, G Tony Delk, G Pierce.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 22.4 ppg and 17.2 rpg; Tinsley, 7.8 apg. Celtics - Pierce, 25.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg and 6.4 apg.

REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2. Each team won twice at home. Indiana averaged 105.5 points on 44.6 percent shooting in its two victories, but was limited to 81.0 points and 37.2 shooting in the two games at Boston. Walker averaged 22.3 points in the series.

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