Celtics keep the Pacers out of rhythm

In a low scoring affair, Boston gets the lead in the first quarter and never gives it up as the cold-shooting Pacers fall 86-72.

INDIANAPOLIS - The perceived beauty or crux of a crunched NBA season schedule is the fact that fortunes can take a pendulum effect in less than 24 hours.

Dreams of an NBA title can flutter with one triumph while the effort a day later can question one's standing in their own conference.

Perhaps that's not the exact though of an Indiana Pacers fan in their home-and-home of the Easter weekend, but perhaps just a subtle reminder that work for the postseason remains in the regular with April approaches its mid-point.

Hours after a victory over Oklahoma City-the second best team in the NBA-the Pacers were less than stellar against veteran Boston. In a low scoring affair the Celtics calmly ground out a victory over Indiana 86-72 Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Paul Pierce led a balanced Celtics attack with 24 points while Rajon Rondo dished out 12 assists. Danny Granger led the Pacers with 20 points.

The Pacers advantage over Boston for third in the Eastern Conference playoff race was trimmed to 2.5 games with ten to go in the regular season. 

Over 48 minutes the aging Celtics showed they will still have something to say about that third seed as they jumped to a quick advantage they would never relinquish. Greg Stiemsma's lay-up with 2:15 to go in the first gave Boston the lead and they never let it go for the remainder of the contest.

Boston asserted themselves in the second quarter by holding the Pacers to just 3-of-19 shooting from the field in building their lead to 19 points before it settled back down to ten before the break.

A slower-paced third quarter appeared to have opened up some room for a comeback for the Pacers as they cut the lead down to six late when Leandro Barbosa hit a three-pointer with 48 seconds to go.

In the end it was just a quick spell of hope as the Celtics used a flurry of buckets from Kevin Garnett, Pierce and Rajon Rondo to keep the lead above double digits for most of the final 12 minutes.

 
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