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Thursday, May 10, 2012
Pacers roll back years, clinch first series win since 2005
INDIANAPOLIS — It was just like old times at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
After years of losing and players finding trouble, the Indiana Pacers finally gave their fans something to really cheer about. Danny Granger scored 25 points to help the Pacers defeat the Orlando Magic 105-87 on Tuesday night and clinch their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series 4-1.
"I'm just so happy for our fans," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They've endured a lot those years when we struggled. To finally see us come back and have a winning team again and somebody that has a chance to do something special this year. That's what they deserve. Pacers basketball is back."
The Pacers will play Miami or New York in the second round. Miami leads that series 3-1, and as the final minutes ticked away, fans began chanting, "Beat the Heat."
"It was electric," Granger said. "The crowd was crazy. They had a lot of momentum going. They pushed us in that fourth quarter."
It was a tough series for Orlando, which played all five games without All-Star center Dwight Howard because of a back injury. It took the opener, then watched Indiana put together its first series win since 2005 and its first clincher on its home court since the first round of the 2000 playoffs. No player on Indiana's roster had won a playoff series while playing for the Pacers.
"It's an unfamiliar situation for a lot of guys, but I just thought we stayed together," Indiana forward David West said. "They made some runs, made some shots. But ultimately, we stayed together as a team and won this game as a unit."
Granger finally got his first series win in year seven. Perhaps fans should take it easy on him — it took Reggie Miller six years.
"Close out game, you obviously want to play your best at these moments," Granger said. "I pride myself on that. I had a big night, but I'm just glad we got the win."
Darren Collison scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and George Hill added 15 points for the Pacers, who trailed by two at the end of the third quarter but outscored the Magic 36-16 in the final 12 minutes.
Collison's complete dominance of Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson in the fourth quarter turned the game. Indiana had no answers for three quarters before Collison, who had lost his starting job late in the season, entered the game and took over. Collison made all seven of his shots in the fourth quarter and had four assists. Nelson made 1 of 5 shots in the period and missed both of his 3-point tries.
"That's a testament to the type of team we have," West said. "We're deep, man. We've got guys, that when their number's called, they're prepared. DC just had another gear that I don't think anybody else on the floor had."
Hawks 87, Celtics 86
In Atlanta, Al Horford scored 19 points in his first start since January, and the Hawks held on for the victory in Game 5.
Game 6 is Thursday in Boston.
The Celtics had a chance to clinch the series when Rajon Rondo stole Josh Smith's inbounds pass with 10 seconds remaining. But he got hemmed in along the sideline and Smith knocked away a desperation pass.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 16 points apiece. Rondo had 13 points and 12 assists.
Bulls 77, 76ers 69
In Chicago, Luol Deng scored 24 points and Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulls avoided a first-round playoff exit.
The top-seeded Bulls finally won without point guard Derrick Rose, building a nine-point halftime lead and staying in control down the stretch to pull within 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday in Philadelphia.
Nuggets 102, Lakers 99
In Los Angeles, Andre Miller scored 24 points, including two free throws with 12.8 seconds left, and Denver survived Kobe Bryant's 43-point performance to avoid playoff elimination.
JaVale McGee had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who trimmed the Lakers' series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday in Denver.
The Nuggets had a 15-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but Bryant hit four 3-pointers over the final 4:47 to make it 98-96 with 59 seconds left.