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Pacers beat depleted Celtics

Jan 11, 2007 - 4:43 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- There was nothing average about Jermaine O'Neal's performance down the stretch.

O'Neal had 23 points and 15 rebounds as the Indiana Pacers extended their winning streak to a season-high three games with a 97-84 victory over the injury-depleted Boston Celtics.

Jamaal Tinsley contributed 17 points and 13 assists for the Pacers, who nearly squandered a big lead before being rescued by their superstar.

O'Neal's jumper with 11:11 remaining in the contest gave the Pacers a seemingly safe 84-66 advantage. However, the Celtics reeled off 14 straight points - 10 with O'Neal on the bench - to claw their way back.

With the Pacers scoreless for more than seven minutes, O'Neal passed out of a double-team and found Danny Granger, who buried a 3-pointer with 4:07 remaining for an 87-80 lead.

"Jermaine O'Neal made a great play out at the post, (Danny) Granger hit a three and then we were able to get another three-point play and we answered it, and that was certainly the key stretch of the fourth quarter," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

O'Neal grabbed a defensive rebound, then converted a three-point play as the Pacers rebuilt the lead to double digits. He added another jumper to go along with a block, and Tinsley's 3-pointer with a 1:32 left capped a 13-0 surge that extended the advantage to 97-80.

O'Neal, who declined to meet with the media, was held to six points on 3-of-6 shooting in the first half, which ended tied at 52-52.

Indiana's winning streak comes on the heels of O'Neal's recent comments in which he said the Pacers were "a very average team."

Granger scored 16 points and Sarunas Jasikevicius and Stephen Jackson 15 apiece for the Pacers, who turned the tide of the game late in the third quarter following a freak injury to the Celtics' Tony Allen.

After a foul was whistled, Allen continued on his way to the basket and attempted a dunk that he wound up missing. Allen fell awkwardly on his left leg and had to be helped off the court with what is believed to be a serious knee injury.

"In his mind, he's probably thinking three-point play," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know. The play was over. The whistle blew. He probably could have just stopped, but what can you do?"

In the first half, the Celtics lost Brian Scalabrine to a right knee injury.

"This is just terrible," Rivers said. "Tony Allen is probably an ACL and Brian Scalabrine is probably an MCL."

The injuries to Allen and Scalabrine were two more blows to the Celtics, who already are without superstar Paul Pierce due to a foot injury. Wally Szczerbiak (ankle) and Delonte West (back) also missed the game.

The Pacers held a 66-63 lead when Allen was injured, then went on a 14-3 surge over the final 3:01 of the third quarter.

Allen scored 19 points and Sebastian Telfair added 15 for the Celtics, who lost for the ninth time in 11 games.

"It's getting kind of weird, but things like this happen," said Celtics forward Al Jefferson, who managed just two points and four rebounds. "We just have to stick together."

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