Celtics defeat Pacers for 60th victory, equaling NBA's best turnaround

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Celtics reached two milestones -- matching the NBA record for best single-season turnaround and winning 60 games for the first time in 22 years.

Big deal.

"Did we do that?" coach Doc Rivers said of the 36-game improvement. "Thanks for telling me. I didn't know."

They did it with a 92-77 win Wednesday night over the Indiana Pacers in which they led by at least 13 points for the last 2 1/2 quarters. But equaling that mark doesn't matter to them.

"A championship does," said James Posey, a member of the Miami team that won the 2006 title. "That's what you play for."

Boston's 60-15 record is the NBA's best just one season after its 24-58 mark was the second worst. The only other team to improve by that much was the San Antonio Spurs, who went from 20-62 in 1996-97 to 56-26 the next season, Tim Duncan's first.

The Celtics also added a dominant player in the offseason, Kevin Garnett, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday.

Boston was 67-15 in 1985-86, when they won the most recent of its 16 NBA championships. That was The Celtics' sixth 60-win season in a seven-season stretch.

"We're well past where I've been," said Paul Pierce, who played on just three winning teams in his other nine seasons with Boston. "I've only won 49 games. Sixty is all good. We have a bigger picture in mind."

Boston won its fifth straight and increased its Eastern Conference lead to 6½ games over Detroit, which was idle. The Celtics lowered their magic number for clinching the No. 1 seed to two.

Indiana dropped into a tie with New Jersey, four games behind Atlanta, which currently has the final playoff spot in the East. The Hawks beat Toronto 127-120 in overtime.

The Pacers were led by Danny Granger with 14 points, and Mike Dunleavy and Jermaine O'Neal with 12 each. O'Neal came off the bench for the second game since missing 33 straight with a bone bruise on his left knee.

Ray Allen had 15 points and Leon Powe had 14 with nine rebounds for the Celtics.

Boston hit its first four shots of the game and Indiana missed its first six as the Celtics never trailed. They took a 35-24 lead with 7:26 left on a 3-pointer by Posey and led by at least 10 points the rest of the way.

"We seemed to be out of it pretty quick," Jeff Foster said. "We have seven games left. We've got to try to win all seven of them and hope Atlanta loses some."

It was 49-30 at halftime after the Celtics held the Pacers to just nine field goals in 36 shots. In their last home game, three days earlier, the Celtics allowed just 17 field goals, an NBA record low in the shot-clock era, in an 88-62 win over the Miami Heat.

"I think they are the best defensive team in the league," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "I think they play the hardest of any team in the league. I don't think there is that much dispute about that. That's why they are contenders."

Boston increased its lead to 56-30 as Allen scored five of the first seven points of the third quarter.

Then the Pacers, who lost for just the third time in nine games, finally found their shooting touch, scoring nine straight points, capped by Foster's layup, to make it 56-39. Gradually, Boston regained control and took a 67-45 lead on a dunk by Kendrick Perkins with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

Indiana closed that to 79-66 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Celtics went on an 11-1 run to take their biggest lead, 90-67 with 2:18 remaining.

"We're preparing for something way bigger than the present," Garnett said. "I just don't believe that you get to the playoffs and you wake up in the morning and blink and all of a sudden you turn it on."

Game notes
The Celtics have allowed 20 points or less in each of their last nine quarters at home. ... Troy Murphy had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana. ... With just one game in five days, Rivers plans to give some of his key players more rest before gearing back up for the playoffs. He said recently acquired guard Sam Cassell, who didn't play Wednesday, would see considerable action Saturday at Charlotte. Boston has two more off days after that before playing on consecutive nights at Milwaukee and Washington.