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indytoad
05-03-2004, 07:58 PM
I don't think this has been posted yet.

http://www.sportsline.com/nba/story/7303522

Harrington finding his playoff niche with Pacers
May 3, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

INDIANAPOLIS -- Al Harrington had more to prove than any of the Indiana Pacers when the playoffs began, and he has silenced his doubters.

The Pacers are enjoying a long rest prior to the second round in large part because of Harrington, who overcame his past playoff failures in Indiana's first-round sweep of Boston by averaging 14.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.25 steals.

"I guess I would call it a breakout performance," Harrington said. "Now I got my feet wet, and I have to keep my head up and continue to play hard."

Harrington brought playoff averages of 2.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in nine games into this postseason, but believed those numbers would improve this time around.

Despite having painful back spasms hours before tipoff of Game 1, Harrington had 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists in the 104-88 rout that set the tone for the rest of the series.

"My thing is that, the first two playoffs, I really didn't get a true shot," Harrington said. "This year I'm finally getting a shot at it, and I'm trying to take advantage."

Just as he did during the regular season, when he averaged a career-best 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds, Harrington was solid and sometimes dominant against the Celtics.

His 14 points in Game 1 were just four fewer than he scored in last year's six-game series against the Celtics. He had 12 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2 and led Indiana with 19 points in Game 3.

"Al knows it's his time to shine," guard Reggie Miller said. "He wants to show everyone that the regular season was not a fluke."

One of the top prep players in the nation as senior, Harrington entered the NBA draft straight from St. Patrick's High School in Elizabeth, N.J., and is finally starting to live up to high expectations.

He is the Pacers' No. 1 option offensively when the second unit comes off the bench and is typically on the floor late in close games.

"Al may not be a starter, but he's tough, he can rebound and score," Ron Artest said. "There's a lot of guys on the bench who have kept us in a lot of games."

In the past, Harrington was known to sulk on occasion because he was not a starter. This season, he has embraced his role and avoided the letdowns that plagued him earlier in his career.

"He's the best sixth man in the league," Jermaine O'Neal said. "He does so many different things for us."

And he'll need to continue to bring that energy and considerable skill level off the bench if the top-seeded Pacers are to keep their hopes for an NBA championship alive.

Indiana will play Thursday night against the winner of the Miami-New Orleans series, which is tied 3-3 with game 7 Tuesday night.

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