CLEVELAND (AP) -- Once again, the Indiana Pacers did what was
necessary for survival. Now they need one more win -- and some help
from someone else.
Andre Miller, right, arrives too late to stop the Pacers' Jamaal Tinsley.
Needing a victory to keep their shaky playoff hopes alive, the
Pacers got 34 points from Jermaine O'Neal and held on for their
fourth straight victory, 99-95 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on
"We're doing all we can do right now," Pacers coach Isiah
Thomas said. "Hopefully, next year we won't be in this position."
Ron Artest made several huge plays in the fourth quarter for the
Pacers, who nearly blew a 17-point second-half lead and their
season along with it.
With the victory, Indiana (41-40) moved into a tie with
Milwaukee (41-40) and Toronto (41-40) for the final two spots in
the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Pacers have to win their home finale Wednesday night against
Philadelphia to have any chance of making the playoffs for the 12th
time in 13 years. The Bucks will play at Detroit and the Raptors
will end the regular season at home against the Cavs.
Indiana needs some help to get in. If the Pacers lose or end up
tied with either team, the Pacers' season will be over because they
lose tiebreakers to both Milwaukee and Toronto.
"We can only worry about ourselves," Reggie Miller said. "All
we can do is play hard and see what happens."
Cleveland coach John Lucas, whose team played hard but came up
short in its home finale, assured Thomas that the Raptors won't
have it easy.
"We'll play hard," Lucas said. "I can promise you that."
After the final horn, the Pacers hurried into their locker room
for a score update from Milwaukee. When Ray Allen hit a late
3-pointer to put the Bucks up by 12, Miller had seen enough.
"That's it," he said, turning away from the TV in a tiny
trainer's room packed with Indiana players and coaches. "Let's
The Pacers, who saved their season by beating Toronto and
Milwaukee in the past week, then headed to the airport for the
short flight back to Indianapolis, knowing there's at least one
more big game to be played.
"This has been fun," said Brad Miller, who scored 13 points.
"Crazy, but fun. Hopefully, this will all work out."
Andre Miller scored 21 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 20 for the
Cavs, who rallied in the second half and nearly put an end to
Indiana's playoff dreams.
With O'Neal forced to sit out for 2:55 of the fourth with five
fouls, Cleveland closed to 85-84 on Ilgauskas's basket with 4:38
left. O'Neal returned with 4:16 to go, and the Pacers responded the
moment he walked back on the floor.
Indiana led 89-86 when Artest outhustled two Cavs for an
offensive rebound, tipping the ball outside and leading to a basket
by O'Neal, who caught a behind-the-back pass from Jamaal Tinsley.
O'Neal scored again as Indiana went up 93-88 with 1:54 left.
The Cavs got within 93-92 on Brian Skinner's dunk over O'Neal,
but Skinner missed a foul shot that would have tied it. After
O'Neal misfired, Artest grabbed the rebound by wrestling the ball
away from Wesley Person and scored to make it 95-92.
"I was doing anything it takes to win," Artest said. "I had
to keep us in the playoffs."
Tinsley, who had 14 assists, and Reggie Miller each made two
free throws to seal it and the Pacers could relax -- for a few
Artest finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three steals,
including one in the fourth when he stripped Ilgauskas in the
backcourt and converted a three-point play.
"I saw it was the big guy," Artest said. "I'm the little guy,
so I just snuck up and took it."
O'Neal, a strong candidate to be the league's most-improved
player this season, showed a full repetoire of inside moves while
scoring 22 points in the first half as the Pacers opened a 55-43
Indiana is 2-1 against Philadelphia this season. Jalen
Rose, traded to Chicago on Feb. 19, was the Pacers' leading scorer
in both wins. ... Cavs F Jumaine Jones picked up five fouls in just
six minutes in the first half. ... Miller, the NBA's assists
leader, is the first Cleveland player to lead the league in an
offensive category for a season since Mark Price shot .948 from the
free-throw line in 1992-93. ... The Cavs finished 20-21 at home for
the second straight year.