LOS ANGELES, California, May 9 – Danny Granger scored 25 points as the Indiana Pacers punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs by beating Orlando 105-87 in game five of their Eastern Conference series.
The Pacers advanced past the first round for the first time since 2005, winning the best of seven series 4-1.
“We feel like this is just the beginning of a big run. We’re excited about where we’re at as a basketball team,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said.
The NBA Eastern Conference playoff landscape could have shifted dramatically Tuesday night as three teams faced elimination by being down 3-1 in their series.
But the Atlanta Hawks survived by beating Boston 87-86 to cut the Celtics series lead to three games to two.
The Chicago Bulls also had to dig deep in game five to beat Philadelphia 77-69 with the help of Luol Deng’s 24-point performance.
Darren Collison scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for Indiana who will play the winner of the series between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
George Hill added 15, David West finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and Roy Hibbert had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Jameer Nelson nailed five-of-eight three-pointers en route to a game-high 27 points for Orlando, who won the first game of the series before losing four straight.
The Magic elimination marked the first time in his NBA career that a team coached by Stan Van Gundy had won the first game and not gone on to win the series.
“That team fought extremely hard the entire series and really made it a challenging series with their style of play, their energy and their effort,” Vogel said about the Magic. “My hat is off to them.”
Orlando was playing without all-star center Dwight Howard, who is out for the season after back surgery.
The last time the Pacers lost the opening game and then came back to capture the series was in the 2005 postseason against Boston.
Al Horford and Josh Smith played through injuries to keep the Hawks’ season alive. Horford missed most of the regular season with a pectoral problem while Smith has a bad shoulder.
Horford finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while Smith scored 13 points and had 16 boards on Tuesday.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had 16 points each while Rajon Rondo finished with 13 points and 12 assists for Boston who lost the rebounding battle 33-41.
“I didn’t like our execution down the stretch,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. “We did a couple of things we shouldn’t have done, but overall I just thought [the Hawks] played harder. They played better.”
Boston can close out the series with a win at home on Thursday.
Indiana 105 Orlando 87
(Indiana wins series 4-1)
Atlanta 87 Boston 86
(Boston leads series 3-2)
Chicago 77 Philadelphia 69
(Philadelphia leads series 3-2)
at Los Angeles
Denver 102 Los Angeles Lakers 99
(Lakers lead series 3-2)