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Return of Artest, Tinsley fails to spark Pacers

3/18/2003

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Arvydas Sabonis is no longer considered one
of the best big men in the world. He is, however, the best one off
the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers -- and right now that's
enough.

Sabonis scored 12 of his season-high 16 points in the fourth
quarter as Portland beat the fading Indiana Pacers 95-88 Monday
night.

"It was a good night for me,'' Sabonis said with a smile.

The 38-year-old center played only 12 minutes the first three
quarters, leaving him with enough energy to finish off the Pacers
after they rallied late.

The Trail Blazers' 17-point first-half lead was wiped out midway
through the fourth after Ron Artest's 3-pointer gave Indiana a
70-69 lead.

Portland regained the lead on the next possession on Sabonis'
basket, but the Pacers tied it at 72. Rasheed Wallace put the Trail
Blazers ahead for good, 75-72, with a 3-pointer, and Sabonis added
a three-point play -- thanks to a nifty hook over Jermaine O'Neal -- on the next possession

Two more short-range baskets and a free throw by Sabonis
stretched the lead to 85-76 and sealed the win.

"You have to give that guy a lot of credit. He's still out
there leading us,'' said Ruben Patterson, who scored 15 points for
Portland.

It helped that O'Neal was playing with five fouls in the fourth
quarter and fouled out with less than a minute left.

"He needed to play safe on defense,'' Sabonis said. "For me, I
have more freedom.''

Wallace and Damon Stoudamire each scored 14 for the Trail
Blazers, who had lost two straight.

O'Neal led the Pacers with 31 points and 12 rebounds, Al
Harrington had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Artest scored 16 in
his first game back from a one-game suspension.

The Pacers have lost 13 of their last 15 and were booed for most
of the first half. Some fans behind the Indiana bench heckled coach
Isiah Thomas, angering O'Neal.

O'Neal defended his coach, saying Thomas prepared the Pacers but
they aren't playing like they should.

O'Neal said off-court distractions have played a role in the
slide. His stepfather suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and
starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley's mother is dying of cancer.
Tinsley arrived just before tipoff.

"My stepfather is fighting for his life every single day,''
O'Neal said. "As humans we go through a lot, but we will get it
together. Don't walk away from us.

"My heart is heavy.''

Portland built a big lead in the second as Stoudamire, starting
in place of the injured Scottie Pippen, hit one jumper after
another. Stoudamire scored 10 points in the quarter as the Blazers took a 51-34 lead.

The Pacers looked awful in the first half, and the ball movement
they showed during their torrid start has disappeared.

Instead of working the ball around, the Pacers tried to go
one-on-one off the dribble and then kick it outside if they ran
into trouble. O'Neal and Harrington combined for 34 of Indiana's 82
shots.

The Trail Blazers were able to dominate in transition,
outscoring Indiana 20-3 on the fastbreak and 34-18 in the paint in
the first half.

"We just got the ball and ran,'' Patterson said.

Indiana used an 11-4 run at the start of the third and a 9-2
spurt to start the fourth to get back in the game.

The Pacers again played without center Brad Miler, who missed
his third straight game with a sore left foot.

Game notes
The Pacers brought in five-time All-Star point guard Tim
Hardaway for a workout last weekend. Thomas said Hardaway had a
good workout, but there was no timetable on a decision. "When a
guy like that calls and says he's interested in playing for you,
you owe it to yourself to take a look,'' Thomas said. ... The Trail
Blazers have two Indiana natives on their roster. Bonzie Wells of
Muncie and Zach Randolph of Marion. ... Pippen is still bothered by
swelling in his left knee. ... The Pacers have failed to score 90
points in four of their last five games.