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With power in reserve, Pacers are lighting it up

Pacers' backups spark big fourth-quarter run

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana bench made it 2 for 2 in this Eastern Conference playoff series with Boston, sparking the Pacers past the Celtics, 103-90, last night.

With Ron Artest suspended by the NBA for leaving the bench in Game 1 Saturday, Al Harrington moved off the bench and started.

Still, the bench didn't miss a beat as it outscored the Celtics' reserves, 43-11.

Boston was leading, 69-61, with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Austin Croshere, who didn't play a second in Game 1, ignited an 18-1 run that sent the Pacers to Boston for Game 3 Friday night with a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Croshere cut the deficit to 69-65 by making a free throw and a 3-pointer before the end of the period.

Croshere (10 points) tied the score at 69 with a fast-break basket as the Pacers opened the final quarter with 7 consecutive points.

Reserves scored all the points in the big run, with guard Fred Jones recording 12 of his 17 points in the final quarter and 7-footer Jonathan Bender scoring 9 of his 11 points.

They were among six Pacers to finish in double figures. Jermaine O'Neal led the way with 22 points and had a game-high 11 rebounds. Jamaal Tinsley had 15 points and 6 assists, while Harrington had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

"We came in and really picked up the energy," said Croshere, whose willingness to work without worrying about his minutes all season was a big reason Indiana finished the season with a league-best 61-21 record. "We made a big point of limiting their fast-break opportunities, forcing them into shots they didn't want to take.

"Al and Jonathan did a great job of hitting the boards. Our energy was that much higher than them in that run."

Croshere isn't surprised by the reserves' success in the first two games.

"A big part of our team all year has been our second unit," he said. "For guys like us who don't get an opportunity to play big minutes in the fourth quarter on a night-in and night-out basis, it is something you really take a lot of pride in when you have the chance."

Croshere said his role on the team is "just a matter of being professional and being ready. If you're the 10th man on the team, that's my role and I have to perform the best I can."

Reggie Miller cited Croshere for his contributions all season.

"He's the consummate pro," said Miller. "He always stays focused and stays ready. He's like me, one of the first guys here and one of the last to leave."

Jones, who has come off the bench to score 26 points in the two games while hitting 11 of 16 shots, was 3 for 4 from behind the arc.

"We've got all the confidence in the world in our second team," he said. "We're showing we can play with anybody. I know they're laying off of me and giving me the open shot. They expect me to drive. I've got my confidence up and I feel like I'm going to hit every shot I take."

Bender said the Pacers have a special incentive in the playoffs.

"We want to get a ring for Big Pops," he said in reference to the 38-year-old Miller, who has hinted he might retire if the Pacers win the championship.

The absence of Artest also provided incentive.

"We knew we had to step up," said Bender. "Ron is an All-Star, the most valuable defensive player in the league. Anybody that is missing a guy like him is going to struggle a little bit. Fortunately, we were able to regroup and win the game."

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