Pacers set tone as they even up series
Charley Rosen / Special to FOXSports.com
Opening any playoff series on the exhaling end of a blowout can be dangerous.
Imagine how easy it would be for the Celtics to think that the Pacers were already done. In fact, during the unfolding of Game 1, Ricky Davis was telling teammates to get out the broom. Who could blame him?
Even though Boston's final margin was 20 points (102-82), the action was much more one-sided — the Celitcs' biggest lead was 36! Moreover, the Celts totally dominated every aspect of the game even though their main man, Paul Pierce, was a no-show. (He shot 2-9 and only managed nine points.)
For sure, the Beantowners would be ready to come out of the gate at full-speed, hoping (and thinking?) that after a few minutes the Pacers would be derailed. But how would the Celtics respond if Indiana absorbed their opening salvo and refused to surrender? After all, resilience has been the Pacers' by-word ever since the Assault in Auburn Hills. Would the Celtics have the gumption and the endurance to engage in an all-out 48-minute battle?
Rosen: Pacers shut up Celtics
Let's break the game down into small and sequential skirmishes to see how the Pacers finally won the war.
FIRST QUARTER — minutes 1-4:
Here's where the Pacers tried (and succeeded) to establish a grind-it-out pace.
Both teams executed their half-court offenses, but a pair of early Celtic turnovers gave Indiana extra possessions.
For the Pacers, Reggie Miller was moving well and his shots were finding the hole in the bottom of the net. Stephen Jackson was also bombing away. The only dependable offense for the home team was provided by Antoine Walker in the low post.
The Pacers played sturdy if unspectacular defense-while the Celtics lacked any sense of immediacy and their defense was late and lazy.
After four minutes, the Pacers set the pace and led 15-6.
The Pacers double-teamed Walker and nullified his offense. Dale Davis had a bad spell-losing a gamble on defense that allowed Walker to score, missing a layup, and then fumbling a pass away.
The pace was slightly quicker-the Celtics finally ran themselves into a break situation, but Raef LaFrentz missed an open jumper. Austin Croshere had a terrible time on defense and spent the rest of the game on the bench. Miller and Jackson were the Pacers' only offensive forces.
Neither team distinguished itself on defense.
The Pacers mostly controlled the pace, and for this section the score was tied 9-9. The Pacers led the game 24-15.
Jackson got impatient — in an iso situation he forced (and missed) an off-balance jumper. Jermaine O'Neal made his first strong post-move, and missed a jump-hook.
The Celtics celebrated Second Wave (who had overwhelmed the Pacers in Game 1) took the floor — Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, Al Jefferson, Corey Blount, and Delonte West. Davis' one-on-one forays juiced the Celtics' stagnant offense, but Jefferson was clumsy and ineffective.
With Miller taking a blow, Indiana couldn't find anybody to put the ball through the hoop. Anthony Johnson missed two long jumpers, and Jackson was invisible. Indeed, the Pacers failed to tally a field goal during this stretch.
The Celtics' subs weren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard either-but their persistent offensive rebounding kept them in the game.
Still the Pacers' pace, but Boston barely won the battle by 7-6. (Indiana led overall, 30-22).
SECOND QUARTER — minutes 12-18:
The Celtics continued to clean the offensive glass. Jefferson was more lead-footed than ever.
The slow-down pattern resumed, but the Pacers still couldn't find the range. O'Neal got fouled on a jumper (but the refs silently sucked on their whistles), and the contact with his extended right arm made him wince.
Here was the home team's chance to open up the game-but Boston's subs were strictly a non-factor. The chance was wasted when Dale Davis tipped in a miss and then Johnson bagged a 3-ball.
Boston gained ground, 8-5, but Indiana still set the pace (35-30).
Nifty interior passing by Boston netted baskets by Walker and Payton.
The Pacers ran an old-time flex offense, but their picks were sloppy and no scores resulted. A bad pass by Ricky Davis led to a fast-break opportunity for Indiana-and Miller dropped a long 3-ball.
Boston retaliated with treys by Paul Pierce and Walker.
Miller went off on a spurt-driving to the basket and snaking home a layup, then posting Ricky Davis (and drawing a foul). But Jackson's offense was nowhere to be found. The Pacers' chops were boosted when Johnson hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The tempo favored Boston, but they made no headway (12-12), and at the half, Indiana's margin was 47-42.
THIRD QUARTER — minutes 24-28:
This is a critical time in any game because the coaches have had a chance to make on-the-spot adjustments during the intermission. That's why the opening minutes of the third quarter basically match coach against coach.
Doc Rivers adjustment was to unleash Pierce. Driving, shooting, popping, and even passing, PP dominated the putative defense of Stephen Jackson.
For the Pacers, Rick Carlisle decided to emphasize Miller. That meant lots of motion, screens, fakes and flops.
The game remained a station-to-station affair, and the Miller-Pierce mini-duel led to a slight advantage for Boston (9-7), yet Indiana maintained its lead (54-51).
When O'Neal mishandled the ball, the Celtics rushed up-court and tried too hard to make something happen in a hurry-all they accomplished was a silly charging foul on Walker. On another run-out, Walker hustled and tipped in a Ricky Davis miss. In their half-court sets, Boston continued to emphasize Pierce, who now abused James Jones.
For the Pacers, the best news was O'Neal powering into the lane and hitting a pair of jump hooks.
The game quickened and Boston surged (9-7), thereby reducing Indiana's margin to 61-60.
The Pacers were tiring. Their only points came on a pass by Miller to a cutting Jeff Foster, who hit a reverse layup and the subsequent free throw. Otherwise, Indiana was futilely launching long-range shots.
Meanwhile, Pierce continued his assault with a big three and a pair of deuces.
The pace increased by another step and Boston (9-3) looked ready to take control of the game (69-64).
FOURTH QUARTER — minutes 36-42:
The Celtics seemed to squander their opportunity by taking quick shots (Banks and Blount). Nevertheless, PP bailed them out with another barrage of iso-generated buckets.
On one memorable sequence, Ricky Davis blocked a jumper by Jackson — and when the Pacers' swingman recovered the ball and attempted another jumper, RD smacked it again!
The Pacers fell behind by seven big points and, needing a miracle, had their hearts broken when Miller missed a wide open 3-ball. PP was just too much to handle, and with O'Neal playing one-armed, the Pacers were doomed.
Their hopes were lifted slightly when Jackson suddenly came to life with a rousing baseline dunker.
The game slowed to a crawl (6-6), and Boston looked to have the game in hand (75-70).
The Celtics offense suddenly collapsed-Pierce never smelled a shot, and their only score was a trey by Walker. For Indiana, James Jones and Fred Jones were afraid to shoot and turned down wide-open looks. But O'Neal dug deep enough to hit another jump hook, and, later, to convert a pair of free throws. Johnson chipped in with a mid-range jumper, and the Pacers were back in business.
This was the first fire-fight captured by the Pacers (6-3) since the opening minutes. Boston clung to a narrow lead (78-76).
Minutes 46-48 — money-time:
This was exactly where Indiana wanted to be-within reach to sneak out of Boston with a split.
Jackson scored on a give-and-go to-and-from O'Neal.
Then the most crucial sequence of all-Walker missed an easy layup, snatched his own miss ... and missed another layup!
Johnson then drove through the entire Celtics' defense and put the Pacers ahead by 80-78.
Another spotlight play-PP was fouled, but made only 1-of-2.
Then guess who faked, dribbled, and hit a clutch shot? You got it! Money Time is Miller Time!
And that was that. Misses by Ricky Davis (an easy pull-up from 15 feet), Johnson, and an errant 3-ball by PP just under the buzzer.
The Pacers won the final assault (6-1) and the game was theirs (82-79).
Indiana opened up and finished strong. In between, they were patient, courageous, and resourceful.
After all, sometimes the tortoise does win.
Charley Rosen, former CBA coach, author of 12 books about hoops, the current one being A pivotal season — How the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers changed the NBA, is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com.