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By Conrad Brunner | April 21, 2005 With three losses in their last four games, a beat-up bench and a sub-par superstar, the Pacers are facing their usual share of adversity heading into the postseason.
Could they have it any other way?
"We've got a puncher's chance," said Reggie Miller. "Obviously, we won't be at full strength, but who really cares? Everyone starts 0-0. Maybe we can get on another little hot streak like we were on two weeks ago.
"We've got to find ways to win ballgames. It's going to be tough playing in Boston but we know we can win there, obviously, if you go by the last two years."
The Pacers and Celtics will square off in the first round for the third consecutive year. In 2003, the third-seeded Pacers were upset, 4-2. Last year, the top-seeded Pacers swept the Celtics, winning by an average margin of 17 points.
In both instances, the winner of Game 1 went on to win the series. The opener comes Saturday night in FleetCenter (7:00 Indianapolis time).
"We need to have a sense of urgency in Game 1," said Stephen Jackson.
They could also use some quick healing. Jermaine O'Neal returned from a sprained shoulder three games ago but is playing in pain. Key reserves Fred Jones (broken finger) and Austin Croshere (sore lower back) are nursing injuries. And this is a team that will be without suspended All-Star Ron Artest for the duration of the postseason and isn't sure if starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley will be able to return from his left foot injury.
"I canít honestly say weíre playing well right now," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "Weíll have to piece it together. Boston, to me, has been one of the surprise teams this year. Theyíve had a great year.Ē
The Celtics won the Atlantic Division title with a 45-37 record, one game better than the Pacers (44-38). Though Indiana won the season series 2-1, the teams haven't met since late January. Since then, Boston re-acquired forward Antoine Walker and finished the season 18-9.
ďWeíre ready," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. "Weíre ready for the playoffs. Weíve got home court. I think our guys are up for the fight. Ö I think our guys are in a great frame of mind right now."
Had the Pacers managed one more regular-season win, they would've opened the series in Conseco Fieldhouse despite finishing as the sixth seed.
"I think this is the first year for NBA basketball where the seeds donít matter," said Walker. "Itís balanced out; the championship is up for grabs, and itís a matter of what team can get hot at the right time. We feel like we can be the team to do that, but weíre just going to take it one game at a time; one series at a time. We look forward to the challenge.Ē
Though the Pacers are shorthanded, they still have the Celtics' respect.
"They're still a difficult team even though (Artest) is probably their best player," Paul Pierce told the Boston Herald. "They're still tough. They're playing well. They're playing tough defense, and everybody knows that's what's going to win games in the playoffs. And then Reggie Miller Ö he's playing like he's back in his prime. That don't help." Miller, in the final season of his career, averaged 19.1 points in the Pacers' final 25 games as the team went 16-9.
Re: Pacers Have "Puncherís Chance" Against Celtics
Ehmmm... some GUY on NBATV talked about Boston having beat Indiana twice in the last three years ... I thought this year was going to be the third time we meet them and we lost to New Jersey 3 years ago.