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Pacers crush Hill-less Magic for team's best start

11/23/2002

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) --Taking things one game at a time has worked so well for the Indiana Pacers that they're off to the best start in franchise history following nine consecutive victories.

"I haven't mentioned it one time. I just want to win every
basketball game we play,'' coach Isiah Thomas said Friday night as
the Pacers beat Orlando 106-70 to improve to an Eastern
Conference-leading 10-1.

"We try to take it one game at a time, play the game, win it and move on to the next game,'' Thomas said. "Whatever happened two days ago or a week ago happened. The only thing you worry about is tonight's game.''

He had nothing to worry about against the Magic.

Ron Artest had 15 points and held NBA scoring leader Tracy McGrady 20 points under his average as Indiana bettered the 9-1 start by the 1969-70 Pacers in the old American Basketball Association.

With Grant Hill missing his second game in a week because of a
sore ankle, the Magic had four early turnovers and missed their
first 11 shots before a basket by McGrady almost six minutes into
the first quarter. By then, Indiana's lead was 10-2, and the Pacers were never threatened after that.

The 36-point margin was Indiana's biggest since a 136-88 victory over Cleveland in 1999.

"We played excellent defense tonight,'' Artest said. "Everybody was focused on their man, we were focused on the team, helping each other out. It just led to them not scoring, having turnovers.''

McGrady, who came in with a 33.2 average after scoring at least
30 in a team-record seven straight games. He had eight points in
the first half and finished with 13 on 6-for-19 shooting with five
turnovers.

Hill, who had just two points in nine minutes at Portland on
Thursday, was in uniform but stayed on the bench the whole game.

Coach Doc Rivers said he didn't know whether Hill would play on
Sunday against Miami.

"We're going to evaluate it,'' Rivers said. "If the ankle is sore on Sunday, there's no way he'll play. We'll be patient with this.''

The Pacers missed their first five shots but hit nine straight after that and opened a 20-6 lead on a basket and free throw by Ron Mercer.

Indiana led 29-12 after one quarter and built it to 41-19 in the
first five minutes of the second period. Two baskets by McGrady
helped the Magic within 16, but a 10-4 run by Indiana pushed the
lead to 51-29 at the half.

The Pacers led 80-54 after three quarters and, with both teams
playing their reserves in the final period, took their biggest
lead, 104-65, on a basket by little-used Primoz Brezec in the
closing minutes.

"That was an awful game for us,'' Rivers said. "I expected them to come out like that. They have that swagger and that confidence going.''

Brad Miller added 13 points and Mercer finished with 11 for the
Pacers.

Jacque Vaughn was the only other Orlando player in double figures, finishing with a team-high 14 points off the bench.

Game notes
Jermaine O'Neal, who sat out part of Wednesday's game at
Toronto with chest pains, was in his usual spot in the starting
lineup and scored nine points in 26 minutes. ... The Pacers
activated F Austin Croshere from the injured list and put G Jamison
Brewer on the injured list with a strained right calf muscle.
Croshere, who had off-season surgery on his right foot, hit his
first attempt and finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. ...
The Magic shot 26-of-79 (33 percent) from the field and 17-of-30
(57 percent) from the foul line.