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Celtics Start Fast, Eliminate Pacers

From Associated Press

The Boston Celtics put together a devastating quarter of basketball -- one game later than they would have liked, but just in time to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Two days after being shut out in overtime, the Celtics opened an 18-point first-quarter lead and coasted to a 110-90 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night to win the best-of-seven series, 4-2.

“We were just anxious to get out there,” said Paul Pierce, who had 27 points and eight rebounds. “We said, ‘We should have ended the series the other day in Indiana.’ We wished we could have that one back.”

Antoine Walker scored 21 for Boston, which missed the playoffs for six consecutive years before making it to the Eastern Conference finals last year and losing to New Jersey. The Celtics again will have to go through the Nets, who beat Milwaukee, 113-101, in Game 6 Thursday to advance.

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Eric Williams had 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench, and Walter McCarty had 13 points, sinking three-pointers on the first two shots of the game as the Celtics got off to a scorching start and never looked back.

Boston was 13 for 16 from the floor in the first quarter and made 14 consecutive shots in the first half to open a 23-point lead. They stretched it to 27 points in the third and never led by less than double digits after Tony Delk’s three-pointer made it 22-10 eight minutes into the game.

“It was awful good,” Celtic Coach Jim O’Brien said of the first 12 minutes. “That was awful good basketball.”

Jermaine O’Neal had 25 points and 19 rebounds for Indiana before he was ejected with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter, along with Boston’s Mark Blount, for a minor altercation.

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Indiana has now lost in the first round three times under Coach Isiah Thomas, who got little in this series from All-Star Brad Miller and veteran shooting guard Reggie Miller.

“I let the other 11 guys down,” said Reggie Miller, who missed six of eight shots in what might have been his final game with the Pacers and shot 28% in the series. “No question about it: It was 100% my fault.

“They believe in me so much, and to not come through is tough. I’m man enough to say I’ll put it on my shoulders.”

New Jersey 113, Milwaukee 101 -- Behind Kenyon Martin’s 29 points and Jason Kidd’s triple-double, the reigning Eastern Conference champion Nets closed out the Bucks at Milwaukee, winning their best-of-seven series, 4-2.

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Kidd had 22 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as the Nets advanced to the second round, where they’ll play the Celtics beginning Monday.

The Bucks, who trailed by as many as 22, were down, 88-70, heading into the fourth quarter, and the best they could do was cut their deficit in half -- 99-90 on a basket by Gary Payton with 5 1/2 minutes left.

Martin had 27 points in the first three quarters.


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