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Pacers, Celtics in Playoffs; Duncan's Return Is Spoiled

Associated Press
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page D06

Reggie Miller scored seven of his 22 points in a late 22-second flurry to help the Indiana Pacers rally from a six-point deficit and beat the New Jersey Nets, 90-86, last night in Indianapolis, clinching Indiana's eighth straight playoff berth.

Indiana has won eight of its last nine games and finished its remarkable run to the postseason after playing nearly half the season without four of its top six players, including all-stars Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest.


Nets' Jason Kidd drives past Fred Jones of the Pacers, who made the playoffs despite losing Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal for most of the season. (John Harrell -- AP)

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New Jersey was led by Jason Kidd, who had 29 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. Vince Carter added 22 points and five rebounds, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Nets from dropping 1 1/2 games behind idle Philadelphia in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

For Indiana, the victory capped a memorable comeback from a Nov. 19 brawl with fans at Detroit that threatened to ruin the last season of Miller's 18-year career.

Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, Stephen Jackson for 30 games and O'Neal for 25, a penalty later reduced to 15. In all, the Pacers lost more than 400 games this year to injuries, suspensions and illness, never started their projected lineup and yet never succumbed to the absences. O'Neal (shoulder) remains sidelined.

• CELTICS 111, BUCKS 108: Paul Pierce scored 32 points, including the game-winning basket with 19 seconds left, to help visiting Boston clinch a playoff berth.

Antoine Walker and Ricky Davis each had 17 points for the Celtics, who increased their lead in the Atlantic Division over Philadelphia to 3 1/2 games with four to play. Boston's magic number to clinch the title and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs is two.

• JAZZ 93, SPURS 91: Mehmet Okur put back a rebound with 2.4 seconds remaining in Salt Lake City as Utah spoiled Tim Duncan's return and possibly San Antonio's chances at the best record in the NBA.

San Antonio trailed idle Phoenix by one game entering the night for the league's best record, but fell further behind instead of making up ground thanks to Okur -- again. Okur scored on an offensive rebound at the buzzer in January, snapping Utah's 18-game losing streak to San Antonio.

Manu Ginobili scored 21 points, but missed a baseline jumper that could have forced overtime.

Duncan finished with 17 points and seven rebounds after missing 12 games with a sprained ankle.

• ROCKETS 100, GRIZZLIES 92: Yao Ming scored 28 points and Tracy McGrady had 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists to lead Houston to its fourth straight victory and deny visiting Memphis a chance to clinch a playoff spot.

Mike Miller led Memphis with a career-high 37 points but he missed his final two shots in the Grizzlies' last ditch effort to overcome a 16-point deficit.

The Grizzlies have lost the first two of a four-game road trip, keeping Minnesota alive in the battle for the final playoff spot in the West.


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