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Pacers rip Celtics 108-85, look for sweep
Updated: 2004-04-24 14:43

The Indiana Pacers handed the Boston Celtics their worst beating of a lopsided series, 108-85 Friday night, leaving them one loss from being swept for the second straight season. It could happen Sunday beneath the 16 championship banners hanging from the rafters.

The loss was the worst home playoff defeat in the Celtics' history, a span of 261 postseason games since 1948.

"I wear this green in my heart," a frustrated Paul Pierce said. "These are just difficult moments right now."

With Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Bob Cousy and Red Auerbach looking on, the Pacers took a 3-0 lead in the first-round series by dominating on the Celtics' homecourt after they won the first two games by 16 and 13 points at home.

In the only other game Friday night, Houston beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-91 to cut its deficit to 2-1.

Four series resume Saturday. Miami is at New Orleans, Detroit at Milwaukee, Sacramento at Dallas, and Minnesota at Denver.

Backups Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender scored 19 points each and Indiana's backups outscored Boston's starters 58-54. The Pacers went ahead to stay in the final minute of the first quarter, opened a 52-32 lead with 2:46 left in the second and led by 26 points in the second half.

"Once we shut them down on their end then we aren't trading baskets and we can take over the game," Bender said.

Just the way the Celtics did when they won the last three of their 16 NBA titles in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

Bird, now Indiana's president of basketball operations, and Parish starred for that team. Three other former Celtics Cousy, Tom Heinsohn and Cedric Maxwell broadcast the game and JoJo White sat near Auerbach, the team's president.

"There is no way the Boston Celtics should be ever getting swept," said Pierce, who scored a career playoff-low nine points on 4-for-17 shooting. "This is one of the best franchises in all of basketball."

Ricky Davis, in his first playoff series, led Boston with 16 points.

Only five Celtics were in the playoffs before this season and Boston had the worst regular-season record of the 16 playoff clubs. They're seeded eighth with a 36-46 mark, while Indiana is seeded first at 61-21.

NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ron Artest scored 15 points, played tight defense and helped Indiana end a six-game playoff losing streak in Boston after his one-game suspension for stepping on the court during some rough play in the opener.

The Pacers went 0-3 there last year when the Celtics beat them in six games in the opening round. But now, Indiana would advance with one more win in Boston. The Pacers' 27-14 road record tied Minnesota for the NBA's best.

"The hardest thing to do is to close out a series, whether you're up 3-0 or in a seventh game," said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, a Celtics' guard in 1986. "The Boston fans were great and very loud. They had us really strung out to start the third quarter."

The Celtics scored the first six points of that quarter, cutting a 53-40 halftime deficit to 53-46. But they came no closer as Indiana's cohesive team defense and rebounding superiority took over. Jermaine O'Neal, who scored 14 points, said the Pacers weren't toying with Boston.

"We're just going out and playing our style of basketball," he said. "Being 3-0 is a great opportunity for us but toying with a professional team is hard to say."

Boston still had a chance when it trailed 79-67 with 9:27 left. But a 15-2 run with substitutes Bender scoring six points and Fred Jones adding five gave Indiana its biggest lead, 105-79 with 53 seconds left.

"It's very embarrassing," Boston coach John Carroll said. "They have an answer for everything I see."

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