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Croshere, Bender give Indiana scoring punch

4/21/2004

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The reserves were playing so well for the
Indiana Pacers that star Jermaine O'Neal almost didn't want to get
back in the game.

"You don't want to mess up the chemistry," O'Neal said after
Tuesday's 103-90 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of their
playoff series. "You don't want the opposing team to go on a run
and beat you."

After the starters struggled for the first three quarters
against Boston, a group of reserves rescued the Pacers with a 21-3
run spanning the third and fourth quarters to give Indiana a 2-0
lead in the best-of-seven series.

With an erratic O'Neal watching from the bench and Artest
watching from home because of a suspension, Austin Croshere and
Jonathan Bender ignited a lifeless Pacers team late in the third
quarter.

Croshere hit a 3-pointer at the close of the third period and
Bender brought a boisterous crowd to its feet with a brilliant
three-point play on a dunk in the fourth to give the Pacers a 72-69
lead.

Bender capped the run with a 3-pointer that gave the Pacers an
82-72 lead with 7:21 to play and left the Celtics feeling like an
opportunity to steal a game was wasted. The series moves to Boston
for Game 3 on Friday night.

"We all took this and placed it on our shoulders to turn this
game around," said Bender, who finished with 11 points and seven
rebounds.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 points, but again struggled
from the field despite the absence of Artest, the NBA's defensive
player of the year.

Al Harrington was the only "starter" on the floor during
Indiana's surge, and he is normally the team's sixth man. He was
filling in for Artest, suspended for one game by the NBA on Monday
for leaving the bench during a confrontation in the Pacers' Game 1
win.

Artest took just a few steps onto the court when O'Neal tangled
with Boston rookie Brandon Hunter, but the league deemed it enough
of an infraction to hand out the suspension.

Pierce figured to have an easier time with Artest out, but that
wasn't the case. He made just seven of 18 shots after going
5-for-18 in Game 1.

"It's double frustrating," Pierce said. "We had an
opportunity to take a game when they didn't have their best player
on the court. We just unraveled."

The Celtics again couldn't find a way to compete with the Pacers
for the full 48 minutes. The Pacers held two short leads in the
first half as Boston forced nine turnovers and held a 19-6
advantage in fast-break points. Pierce hit five of 10 shots in the
first half and scored 11 points as Boston took a 46-41 lead.

The Celtics led by as many as nine points well into the third
quarter before the wheels came off.

With O'Neal struggling and the offense stagnant, Pacers coach
Rick Carlisle inserted Croshere, Bender, Fred Jones and Anthony
Johnson, and the reserves quickly turned the tide.

They showed a hunger and vigor lacking from the starters,
attacking the glass and going to the rim aggressively.

"The second unit played one of the most important stretches of
the whole season," Carlisle said. "They have really kept
themselves focused."

Jones had 17 points, Croshere added 10 points and five rebounds
and Harrington had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Celtics again couldn't match the intensity.

Indiana outscored Boston 50-30 in the paint and has a 98-58
advantage inside in the two games. O'Neal finished with 22 points
and 11 rebounds, but it was the second unit that made the
difference.

"I struggled in the third quarter," O'Neal said. "If it
weren't for (the reserves) we lose the game."

The Pacers outscored the Celtics 38-21 in the fourth quarter.

"In the fourth, our true colors came out as a young team,"
Pierce said. "We lost our composure and never regained it."

Chucky Atkins added 21 points and six assists for the Celtics,
but coach John Carroll gave the impression he's presiding over a
sinking ship.

"It's like being in a boat with 20 holes and 10 plugs,"
Carroll said. "You hope it gets you there, but tonight it
didn't."<

^Notes: After going 1-for-6 from the field in the opening 24
minutes, a frustrated Reggie Miller got a technical foul at the end
of the half for trying to trip Boston's Jumaine Jones. ... Hunter
did not play in Game 2 after getting into the altercation with
O'Neal in Game 1. The Pacers felt Hunter's move was intentional.
"I'm not even that type of player," Hunter said. "I was just in
there to be aggressive and try to get a rebound." ... O'Neal
received a technical foul at 3:48 of the fourth quarter for arguing
a foul call.