The Indiana Pacers capitalized on the height advantage of Rik Smits and made the Boston Celtics pay.
The 7-foot-4 Smits, five inches taller than any Boston player, scored 14 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter Sunday to bring Indiana back from a 10-point deficit in the final seven minutes.
"The guys made plays," coach Larry Bird said after the Pacers defeated Boston 99-96. "Travis Best gets in and gets a steal, Antonio Davis comes across and gets a key block. Rik was scoring at the other end."
It was Indiana's seventh consecutive victory over the Celtics and its seventh consecutive over Boston at Market Square Arena.
Indiana trailed 88-78 before Smits ignited the rally with a basket with 6:36 to go. Reggie Miller, who scored 19, followed with a jumper and 3-pointer, making the score 88-85.
"The guys hung together," Bird said. "They didn't give up. That's what it takes. If you're supposed to be a championship team, you're supposed to win games like that."
Boston had an answer to nearly every Indiana challenge until Best hit a 3-pointer, tying the score 94-94 with 2:44 remaining.
The score was tied again at 96 before Smits connected from 14 feet with 26.1 seconds remaining.
Smits was 6-of-8 from the field in the fourth quarter.
"Guys did a good job getting the ball to me when I was open and helping me create open shots," he said.
"He established low post position," Miller said. "When he can get that low, it makes our job that muh easier."
Boston's bid to again tie the score failed when Antonio Davis blocked a shot by Antoine Walker, who had 16 points for Boston. Best recovered the loose ball and was fouled with 7.2 seconds remaining. Best made one of two free throws and Indiana got its fourth consecutive victory -- all at home -- when Dana Barros' 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the front rim.
"They made some big plays, especially that last block," Walker said. "We ran the play perfectly and I don't know where he (Davis) came from. He made a great play."
"We came away with a loss because they (the Pacers) don't beat themselves at the end," Boston coach Rick Pitino said. "That's the best we've looked all year. They are just better than we are right now."
The Pacers came out hot, hitting their first six shots to lead 21-9 with 5:23 left in the quarter. Indiana shot 59 percent in the period and took a 31-23 lead into the second quarter.
Boston got back into the game with a 16-2 run in less than five minutes of the second quarter. Walter McCarty's 20-footer began the run and Tony Battie scored six points during the spree, including a jumper that gave the Celtics their first lead at 36-35.
Indiana shot only 21 percent (4-of-19) in the quarter and trailed 52-46 at the break.
NotesBefore the game, there was a moment of silence in tribute to John Stewart , the Indiana high school senior who died after collapsing during a Friday night game. Stewart, who had signed with Kentucky, was a former ball boy for the Pacers. ... Boston's Paul Pierce played for the first time after missing two games with a sprained right ankle. ... Indiana had its fifth sellout at home with an attendance of 16,664.
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