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Home cooking for Moore

BostCeltics guard E'Twaun Moore left ties up IndianPacers guard George Hill second half an NBA basketball game Indianapolis Saturday Jan.

Boston Celtics guard E'Twaun Moore, left, ties up Indiana Pacers guard George Hill in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. The Pacers defeated the Celtics 97-83. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: February 16, 2012 8:35AM



INDIANAPOLIS — With 9:38 left in the second quarter, E’Twaun Moore checked into the game to a nice ovation.

And it didn’t take long for the former East Chicago Central and Purdue star to make an impact, poking the ball away from Lance Stephenson for a steal and drawing a foul.

In all, Moore could not have picked a better time to have played the longest stretch of his young NBA career (essentially matching his combined minutes entering the game) and post his highest point total (matching his combined point total entering the game), in his rookie season with the Boston Celtics.

Returning to his home state, in front of about 10 family members and friends, most of the Purdue basketball team, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, and assorted other Purdue backers, he scored seven points in 20 minutes, 14 seconds in the Celtics’ 97-83 loss to the Pacers on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“It was different, being on the road and getting some cheers,” said Moore, expecting it to be “crazy” when the Celtics play the Bulls on Feb. 16 at the United Center. “It was a fun game.

“I was just happy, more excited than anything.”

Moore knocked down a 3-pointer with 15.7 seconds left in the third quarter, added a left-handed drive with 4:07 left in the game, and scored a layup with 35 seconds left off a screen from JaJuan Johnson to eclipse his previous best of five points, as the former Purdue teammates were on the floor together for the game’s final 2:38. Moore went 3-of-7 from the field, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range, with three assists against one turnover, two rebounds and two steals.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers could see such a performance from Moore developing.

“I’ve probably held up his progress,” he said. “I’ve been saying for a week now, he should play, he should play. ... The thing I’ve been most impressed about with E’Twaun, he didn’t get discouraged and he just kept pushing. In practice, he kept standing out.”

Running the point with three future Hall of Famers in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on the floor, as well as former All-NBA player Jermaine O’Neal, Moore missed a 3-pointer on his first shot of the game. Even when All-Star Rajon Rondo returned to the game with 8:14 left in the half, Moore shifted to shooting guard, with Allen heading to the bench.

Moore exited with 3:52 left, having played 5:46 in the half. He came back into the game with 2:28 left in the third quarter and played the entire fourth quarter — for a spell with Allen, Garnett, Pierce and Rondo — as the Celtics (4-7) lost their fourth straight game.

Moore entered Saturday having played a total of 20 minutes — the second-fewest on the team, with Johnson at 16 — with a previous career-high of eight, with seven points, one rebound and one assist in six appearances.

So life in the NBA admittedly has been a transition for the state champion at East Chicago — winning it at then-Conseco Fieldhouse — and one of the greatest players in Purdue history, a guy who basically has been at the forefront on any team since he began playing basketball. He largely has waited his turn with the league’s most storied franchise with 17 championships, with this team featuring a veteran and highly accomplished roster. But he’s still living his dream.

“It’s an adjustment, and I’m just trying to get better,” said Moore, also adapting to playing more of a point guard role, as Celtics brass seems to view him more in that light. “It’s a dream come true to be able to play for the Boston Celtics, a team with great tradition like they have. I’m grateful just to be here; a lot of people don’t get here.

“It’s just a learning process. I’m trying to get better every day. Just watching these guys, watching the games very carefully from the bench, I’m very observant and just learning.”

And he got his first extended opportunity to apply those lessons in a game on Saturday against the Pacers (9-3).

“Just stay focused and stay confident in yourself,” Moore said. “That’s the major thing ˜ don’t get down on yourself.”

Indianapolis native and Franklin Central High graduate Johnson estimated he had 60 family members and friends in attendance, providing a suite, from where the Boilermakers players watched. Painter sat courtside along a baseline, along with his wife, Jerri.

“(Moore is) somebody I’ve known for years,” Johnson — who played the final 0.5 seconds of the first half and the final 2:38 of the game, making a jumper with 1:10 left and throwing down an ahead-of-the-field dunk with 9.9 seconds left (both on Moore assists) — said before the game. “I’m happy we’re going through this together. It’s kind of crazy we got drafted together (Johnson in the first round by the Nets, before the Celtics acquired him; Moore in the second with the 55th pick overall, before playing in Italy with Benetton Treviso during the NBA lockout).”

Allen has been impressed with the pair of rookies.

“They’re very responsible young players,” he said before the game. “Most rookies come through, and they’re very high on themselves. These two guys, E’Twaun and JaJuan, they’re very level-headed and they’re very calm how they approach the game. Just being present every single day and making sure they do what they need to do to get better, that’s always a good sign.”



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