Pacers 105, Celtics 98

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indiana Pacers hope their late-season charge will be enough to get them into the postseason.

After a dismal stretch in February and March, when the Pacers went 2-17, they remain in the thick of the playoff picture following a 105-98 victory over the short-handed Boston Celtics on Saturday night.

The win kept Indiana (34-42) within one game of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference behind Orlando (35-41), which beat Memphis on Saturday.

The Pacers, winners of two straight and three of their last four, have six games left—including road games at Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Miami next week.

“We haven’t won back-to-back games in a while, so maybe it’s something,” said Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. “We’re taking care of business right now and doing all we can do.”

Despite dressing only eight players, the Celtics managed to get within striking distance in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to eight Indiana turnovers in the period.

However, Keith McLeod scored eight points of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to help the Pacers hold off Boston’s rally and stay one game behind the Magic.

“We’re just trying to hang in this playoff race,” said Indiana guard Darrell Armstrong, who scored 10 points. “We still have faith.”

Troy Murphy added 16 points and Jermaine O’Neal, who played on a sore left knee, had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Pacers.

“It just seems like we’re all playing together and finding a way to get wins,” Dunleavy said.

Allan Ray had 22 points, Sebastian Telfair scored 21 and Rajon Rondo added 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Celtics, whose long injured list included star Paul Pierce (sore left elbow).

“Obviously, to be undermanned, it was a great effort,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “Everybody played hard, and as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

After the Celtics got within eight points at halftime, Murphy scored nine consecutive points early in the third quarter to give Indiana a comfortable lead. Danny Granger’s two free throws later in the period put the Pacers ahead 66-48.

Boston used a 9-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 90-84 following Ray’s layup with 4:40 remaining.

But McLeod, who started in place of the injured Jamaal Tinsley, had consecutive three-point plays to push Indiana’s lead to 96-84.

“He’s been really important for us,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’ve got to have respect for a guy who keeps himself ready for an opportunity.”

Behind Dunleavy’s 10 points, Indiana jumped out to a 26-15 lead after shooting 65 percent from the field in the first quarter.

The Celtics (23-53) chipped away, getting within 49-43 following Gerald Green’s 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the second quarter. O’Neal’s basket ended the first half and put Indiana ahead by eight points.

“We had no problem being able to score and hit shots, but our mistakes came on defense,” Telfair said.

Notes

Among the inactive players for Boston were C Al Jefferson (bruised left knee) and G Delonte West (sprained left ankle). … Tinsley (sore right elbow) and C Jeff Foster (back spasms) missed the game for Indiana. … The Pacers won the season series against Boston, 3-1. … The Celtics lost their third straight overall and fourth in a row on the road. … Indiana, which beat Charlotte on Friday, improved to 6-14 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Boston
R. Rondo R. Rondo
6-12,  14 Pts
8 Rebs, 8 Assists
 Indiana
M. Dunleavy M. Dunleavy
8-16,  22 Pts
8 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Saturday, Apr 7