INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Ron Artest finds himself enjoying his new role as a go-to scorer.
Artest scored 22 points and made the game-winning three-point
play in overtime as the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks
103-100 Friday night, keeping them unbeaten at home and atop the
"I've never been in a situation like this -- to be playing for something,'' Artest said. "That's what you play for. You play to win.''
The Pacers -- 7-1 overall and 6-0 at Conseco Fieldhouse -- have won six straight since losing at New Jersey on Nov. 1. They're off to their best start since they were 9-1 in the 1969-70 season in the ABA.
"I feel like the Indiana Pacers are now one of the best teams in the league,'' said Jermaine O'Neal, who led the Pacers with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
With the Pacers trailing 100-99, Artest had the ball in the low right post. He spun around Ray Allen, tossed up a leaning, one-handed shot and went crashing to the floor as the ball went through. Artest pumped his fist several times before he was helped up.
"I was so emotional because a lot of times I was getting hacked and I didn't think I was getting the calls,'' Artest said.
He got the call this time and sank the free throw for a 103-100
lead with 13.1 seconds remaining. The Bucks did not score again.
Allen had been held in check by Artest for three quarters before
busting loose for 15 in the fourth quarter and overtime. But he
couldn't stop Artest when he needed to.
"He just threw the ball up looking for some kind of contact and he got the bucket,'' Allen said.
The Pacers hadn't trailed since the second quarter before Sam Cassell hit a turnaround jumper for a 98-97 Milwaukee lead with 49.5 seconds left in overtime.
Artest sank two free throws to regain the lead, but Allen, who
led the Bucks with 24 points, his a jumper in the lane for their
Michael Redd had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Cassell finished with 20 points for the Bucks.
It was a fantastic ending to a game the Pacers appeared to have
put away early.
The Pacers led by 80-62 entering the fourth, but the Bucks wiped
that out with a 30-12 quarter. Allen scored eight of Milwaukee's last 10 points.
The Bucks called timeout after Brad Miller put up an airball with 3.9 seconds left. Allen drove the lane for a dunk, tying the score at 92 and sending the game into overtime.
Milwaukee only shot 31 percent in the third and Allen missed all
five shots from the field and had only nine points through three.
The Pacers used a 22-9 run in the third to lead 80-60.
"We've still got to focus at the end of the game,'' Artest
said. "When we're up 20, we've got to realize we're up 20 for a
reason and stick to the game plan.''
Bucks coach George Karl returned to Indianapolis for the
first time since coaching the U.S national team to a sixth-place
finish at the World Championships in August. "We were all humbled
by it,'' he said. "The next time we have to learn from our
mistakes.'' Karl said he'd remember the good times and didn't look
back at the experience in anger. "I wish Reggie (Miller) hadn't
gotten hurt and I wish Jermaine had more confidence.'' ...G Kevin
Ollie played against the Pacers for the first time since signing
with the Bucks. He was acquired by Indiana in a seven-player deal
with Chicago in February. Ollie said if the money was the same, he
would have preferred to stay with the Pacers. "Indiana is one of
the top teams I've been around.''