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Pacers get plenty of time to rest for East semis

4/28/2004

BOSTON (AP) -- Larry Bird was back in Boston for a familiar
result: A playoff victory.

Bird watched from the stands while Ron Artest scored 22 points
to help Indiana beat Boston 90-75 on Sunday for a sweep in the
best-of-seven series. Jermaine O'Neal scored 18 to help Indiana
earn its first victory in a playoff series after three consecutive
first-round losses.

"This was one of our goals: to get out of the first round. And
we did that," said Rick Carlisle, whom Bird picked to coach the
Pacers after the Celtics Hall of Famer took over as president of
basketball operations. "We're the first team to advance, so we're
very proud of that."

The Pacers will have more than a week to rest before the Eastern
Conference semifinals, where they will play the winner of the
first-round series between Miami and New Orleans. The Heat lead 2-1
heading into Game 4 on Tuesday.

Reggie Miller was 4-for-8 from 3-point range for 14 points,
hitting a pair of 3s early in the third quarter to help the Pacers
open a 17-point lead.

"The younger players on this team feel obligated to go out and
get a ring for Reggie," the 25-year-old O'Neal said of the team's
38-year-old elder statesman. "We know he doesn't have many more
attempts left."

Paul Pierce had 27 points and 11 rebounds and Mark Blount had 21
and 13 for the Celtics, who went away meekly for the third time in
the series.

"I really have a bad taste in my mouth," Pierce said, noting
that the Celtics were swept in the second round last year by New
Jersey. "This is really not a fun feeling."

The loss -- just the third four-game sweep in Celtics playoff
history -- could signal the end for interim coach John Carroll, who
took over when Jim O'Brien resigned Jan. 27. Carroll lost 12 of his
first 13 games but managed to eek out the last playoff spot in the
East with a record that was 10 games under .500.

"I've been a coach my whole life, and when you are a coach you
understand that coaching is a very precarious job," Carroll said.
"I hope I have represented this franchise and the city of Boston
over the last 40 games and the players in the way they should be."

Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge declined to comment on the
coaching situation but conceded that it was a difficult atmosphere
for Carroll to work in. Taking over a team that went to the
conference semifinals last year, Ainge traded Antoine Walker nine
days before the season and made several other roster-shaking trades
that led O'Brien to walk out midseason.

Asked if he could understand why players would be upset, Ainge
said, "Absolutely."

"I can understand that. I can't care," he said. "I do care,
obviously. But I can't let a player's frustrations make my
decisions for me."

The attendance was announced at 16,389 -- about 1,000 short of a
sellout -- but it appeared to be closer to 12,000 and many fewer
were left by the time it ended; more than half of the luxury suites
were dark. Those who stayed home or left early were able to catch
the Red Sox and Yankees wrapping up their series in New York.

Indiana hadn't won a playoff series since they went to the NBA
Finals in 2000, when Bird was coach. Bird stepped down after the
season, but he took over the basketball operations this year and he
might have been just the good luck charm they needed.

Playing in Boston against Bird's old team, the Pacers fell
behind 33-26 in the second quarter before scoring eight straight
points to take the lead. After a basket by Boston, Indiana scored
another seven in a row and led 46-38 at the half.

Blount's layup was the first basket of the third quarter, but
Miller hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-40 and added another a few
minutes later to cap a 13-2 run that put the game away. In all, the
Pacers scored 33 of 42 points over 13:10 to turn a seven-point
Celtics lead into a 59-42 Indiana rout.

Game notes
Pierce was called for a technical foul with 6:03 left in
the first quarter for pushing Artest away. Although it didn't
appear to be a violent shove, Artest fell to the court and lingered
there. ... Chucky Atkins hurt his right ankle in the final minute
of the first quarter. He returned for the second quarter but was
not back for the second half. ... Pierce later took a flop when
Jonathan Bender landed on him as he set up for a jumper. ... Ainge
returned to Boston from Europe at about noon. He was not seen
during the game but he had a lengthy postgame talk with reporters.
Ainge missed Games 2 and 3 for a scouting trip in Europe.