The Sunday Night Sports shows

The Sunday Night Sports shows recap is up. There is also a link on the archive page.

Here is also a game story, submitted by Dave, who was at the Celtics game this afternoon.

BOSTON – In the NBA playoffs, it’s not about how you start a game, but how you finish. Paul Pierce demonstrated the truth of that by struggling in the first half of Game 4 of the first round series between the Pacers and the Celtics. However, Pierce roared out of the break, sending a barrage of three pointers, field goals and free throws, leading his team to a 102-92 victory. By virtue of their win, the Celtics took a commanding 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series, and could close out the series Tuesday night when it resumes at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Early in the game, the Celtics struggled mightily. The visiting Pacers jumped out quickly by scoring the game’s first 8 points. If not for Tony Delk’s shooting (21 points) early in the game, the Celtics might have been blown out early. Pierce managed to get his first field goal of the first half with just over 7 minutes to go, but he still had to work hard to get open, as the Pacers defensive seemed to focus on taking him out of the game. They seemed to succeed most of the first half, as the Celtics shot an abysmal 29% in the first half (after shooting an even more horrible 25% in the opening quarter).

On the other hand, the Pacers seemed to score at will early on, as they shot 56% in the opening half. They were able to dominate inside, thanks to the shooting touch of both Brad Miller (21 points) and Jermaine O’Neal (25 points). The Pacers outscored the Celtics 24-10 inside the point, which helped them build a 48-36 advantage at the break.

Coming out of the break, the Pacers looked to continue their dominating ways of the first half, as they jumped out to a 52-36 lead in the opening minutes of the third, their largest of the game. The Celtics then proceeded to go on a 15-0 run hit from behind the arc, drained a shot from atop the key, and then scored a 3-point play after getting fouled. During this run, the physical play that has come to characterize this series continued, as Brad Miller was called for a flagrant (type 1) foul as Tony Battie attempted a layup. Battie missed both free throws, but Pierce scored on the next possession to cut the margin to a single point, 52-51.

The teams then proceeded to match baskets until Antoine Walker (17 points) nailed a shot with 4:50, and the Celtics took their first lead of the game, 59-58. It would be the only lead change of the game. The Pacers were unable to match the defensive intensity of the Celtics, and on the next position, Walker hit another three, which ignited the FleetCenter crowd, forcing Indiana to call a timeout. At that point, Pierce picked up where he left off earlier in the quarter, as he nailed shot after shot. When he drained a 3 pointer at the end of the 3rd quarter with Ron Artest contesting the shot, the Celtics had taken a 73-62, and the Pacers looked like a shell-shocked bunch.

The Pacers had one more run left in them, and they made things interesting when Brad Miller drove the lane and made an uncontested dunk with just over 5 minutes left to play, to make it 81-76. Jim O’Brien was forced to call a timeout so his team could regroup, which it did. They came out and went on a 9-2 run, capped by a Tony Delk 3-pointer, causing near pandemonium among the sellout crowd of 18,624.

From there, it was mostly garbage time. In one moment in the final minute of the game, the Jumbotron showed a closeup for Reggie Miller stat line, which at that point read “31 0 0″, meaning no fouls and no points, which elicited a delirious chant of “Reggie, Reggie” from the Celtic faithful. Even though Miller was headed for an unprecedented second straight playoff game without a field goal in his career, he dropped a 3-pointer, ensuring that would not happen. A curious coaching decision had kept Miller on the bench during most of the second half when Boston had made their incredible run.

In the closing seconds, the Pacers continued to foul, sending the Celtics to the charity stripe for meaningless free throws. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Pierce had dropped in a game-high 37 points, and only missed a single free throw during the course of the game (14-15).

Even when the game was out of hand, Reggie Miller continued to foul, so the crowd let him know how they felt about prolonging the inevitable outcome. As the game clock wound down, it looked less and less likely that this series would return to Boston.

It was truly a game of two different halves. Just as the Pacers had shot lights out in the first half, the Celtics, led by Pierce, did so in the second half, as they shot over 62%. The Celtics continued to demonstrate their success when they are hot from the outside, as they shot 12-27 (44.4%) from behind the arc, in comparison to their regular field goal percentage of 43.8% (32-73).

NOTES: Tempers continued to flare in the series, as a pair of double technical fouls was called, first on Jamaal Tinsley and Paul Pierce, and later on Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker… Despite the loss, the Pacers maintained their dominance in the paint, outscoring the Celtics 48-26 in the lane… The Celtics are now 8-2 in the FleetCenter for home playoff games…. As they turn their attention to closing out the series in Game 5 in Indianapolis, the Celtics have a 15-6 record in those games when holding a 3-1 series lead.