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Celtics on Brink of Moving On

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HARTFORD COURANT

Sure is tough to get a read on what happens next in the Indiana Pacers-Boston Celtics’ playoff series. Maybe something new.

Impossible.

The Pacers scored 130 points and beat the Celtics in Boston Sunday, and the Celtics responded with a sterling defensive effort to snap a five-game losing streak at Market Square Arena Wednesday night.

The Celtics are up 2-1 in the best-of-five series, with Game 4 Friday night (8 p.m., EDT). Can the Celtics win here again to finish off the Pacers? Can the Pacers get the series back to Boston for a one-game showdown?

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“I’m telling you -- and I’ve said it a million times -- but every game is different,” Celtics forward Kevin McHale said. “I said it after (Wednesday) night, and I said it after Sunday. Sunday, everyone thought I was crazy.”

Nobody thinks McHale, 33, is crazy anymore. Or old. Or slow. Well, not old, anyway. In Game 3, McHale had 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots. Thursday, he held court before practice and philosophized.

“I think I’d like to be 22 again,” McHale said, “with the body I had then and all the knowledge I’ve gathered since. But I’ve started to feel good again, best I’ve felt since February. It’s fun again, to be out there.”

McHale’s knees hurt. So do his ankles, especially his left ankle, the one with the torn ligaments. His heart and guts are fine, as is his focus.

“You don’t get many chances, baby,” McHale said, speaking about contending for the NBA title. “And, as you get older, the chances get fewer and further between.”

To keep their chances alive, the Celtics will need many more efforts like the one they gave Wednesday night. They forced 15 turnovers and held the Pacers to 41 percent shooting. But the Celtics turned the ball over 21 times and were actually outscored in the second half, 60-52. There is room for improvement on both sides.

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“We didn’t come to play Wednesday, not at all,” Pacers’ Coach Bob Hill said. “It was easily our worst game since I became coach (in December). We were just awful.

“The third possession of the game, we were walking the ball up the court. We were giving up on our game already. For some reason, it was like pulling teeth, trying to get our guys going after that.”

The Pacers are a run-run-run team. They want to get back to that. “There is no counter to running and activity -- except to run and be Active “ Hill said. “They can’t slow us down with their wisdom and experience.”

Speaking of wisdom ...

Just a couple of days before, Chuck Person wanted folks to know he was virtually unstoppable, and hinted the Pacers might just take two in Indiana and move right along to the next round.

After chowing on the fat humble burger the Celtics cooked up, Person said, “Nobody knows the real me.” He tried to show his kinder, gentler side. He said he likes things such as fishing, you know, drinking a few beers in a boat on a lake.

Person was reduced to talking fishing. He was 2-for-8 from the floor and scored six points in Game 3. His playoff averaged dropped from 31 ppg to 22 ppg.

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“We played as awful as we could play Wednesday night,” Person said. “You’ll see a different Pacers team, one with much more intensity, next game. We feel like we’ve already beaten this team in the Garden once, and now all we have to do is hold our court once, then go back up there and try to finish them off.”

Person has it all figured out. He’s the only one.

Notes

Larry Bird still has not gone through a full workout during the postseason. Bird stayed at the hotel Thursday afternoon and went through a physical therapy session, team physician Arnold Scheller said. McHale: “I wish Larry was feeling better, for his own sake. You can actually see when his back is stiffening up. He’s going good, then he starts standing up a little straighter and you can see the look on his face change.” ... Reggie Miller’s ineffectiveness grows more conspicuous with each game. During the regular season, Miller averaged 22.6 points and led the league in free-throw percentage (.918). In three playoff games, Miller has scored 24, 15 and 20 points -- but he has disappeared for long stretches. He is shooting 83 percent from the line.

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