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Dunleavy keeps Pacers in playoff race with win over Celtics

Apr 8, 2007 - 5:14 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the Indiana Pacers don't want to be left out of the postseason for the first time in 10 years.

Dunleavy scored 22 points and Danny Granger added 15 and 10 rebounds as the Pacers remained in the playoff race with a 105-98 victory over the lowly Boston Celtics.

Keith McLeod scored 17 points, including two crucial three-point plays, for Indiana (34-42), which remained one game behind Orlando (35-41) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Magic routed Memphis, 116-89, on Saturday.

"We're just trying to play hard and hang in this playoff race," Darrell Armstrong said. "We feel like we still have a chance. That's why (Jermaine O'Neal) has continued to play (injured). Jamaal (Tinsley) is banged up and guys are stepping up off the bench. Everybody's trying to do their part and that's good, because we still have faith."

The Pacers have lost 18 of their last 23 games to put themselves in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997. But Indiana has won its last two contests to keep pace in the East.

"I hope (the team is hitting its stride)," Dunleavy said. "We haven't won back-to-back games in a while, so maybe it's something. It's a start. It all depends on how we do this week on the road, but we're taking care of business right now."

Trailing by 11 points with 6:39 left, the Celtics went on a 9-2 run capped by rookie Allan Ray's layup to make it 90-86 with 4:41 remaining. The Pacers responded thanks to McLeod, who converted two straight three-point plays to make it 96-86 with 3:11 left.

"Well, with (O'Neal) going out with his sixth foul, guys had to step up," McLeod said. "I saw that they were really laying off (of me) coming off of the ball screen, and that allowed me to attack the basket. Fortunately, I got two and-ones out of it."

Dunleavy shot 8-of-16 from the field and Granger and McLeod each nailed 5-of-8 shots from the floor for Indiana, which shot 54 percent (37-of-68), including 5-of-11 from the arc.

"Guys are starting to come in and contribute," Dunleavy said. "But mostly, it just seems like we are all playing together."

The Pacers dished out 23 assists and had six double-figure scorers.

Boston was without its three best players - swingman Paul Pierce (elbow), forward Al Jefferson (knee) and forward Wally Szczerbiak (ankle).

"Obviously, being shorthanded, it was a great effort," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "It was a great effort by all of our guys. We had a couple of guys that didn't play well but they played hard, and that's all you can ask for as a coach."

In their absence, Ray tied a season high with 22 points for the Celtics, who shot 45 percent (39-of-87) and have lost four of their last five games.

"It's tough every night for us," Rivers said. "If some of our guys don't shoot the ball well, we don't have much of a chance to score."

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