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'Nothing happened,' but another suspension possible

4/3/2003

CLEVELAND (AP) -- As only he can, Ron Artest turned an otherwise
boring blowout into another blowup.

Al Harrington scored 24 points, and Artest was up to his usual
antics -- pushing players, drawing a technical and enraging the
crowd -- while leading the Indiana Pacers to a 103-82 win over the
Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

In the fourth quarter, Artest, who has been suspended 12 games
this season for a variety of bad behavior, made an obscene gesture
with both hands to the crowd after being hit by a thrown coin.

"I got hit by a quarter, but I don't care," said Artest, who
isn't concerned about another possible suspension. "Nothing
happened. I was just playing to the crowd."

The NBA may feel differently after reviewing videotape of
Artest's latest outburst. He's been suspended 11 games by the
league and one game by the Pacers.

Jonathan Bender added 21 points for Indiana, which snapped an
11-game road losing streak. The Pacers hadn't won on the road since
beating New Orleans on Feb. 12.

"It's been a long time," Harrington said. "Hopefully, we can
get on a roll now."

The Pacers didn't miss a beat without Jermaine O'Neal, their
leading scorer and rebounder, who sat out with a sprained right
ankle. Both Harrington and Bender stepped it up and gave Indiana
its 10th straight win over the Cavs at Gund Arena.

But Artest kept things lively during the fourth quarter of the
rout.

With Indiana leading 89-74, he shoved Ricky Davis out of bounds
and was assessed a technical foul by referee Tim Donaghy for
arguing with 7:27 left.

Artest continued to protest, and when teammate Austin Croshere
stepped in to stop him, Artest pushed him and then knocked away
Indiana coach Isiah Thomas' arm.

"The referee called a technical on Ron, and Ron wanted to know
why," Thomas said. "Ron is like any other player or any other
person. When they get upset, they don't want anybody close to them
or touching them. I understand it, because I was the same way."

Artest said he and Davis were simply renewing their personal
rivalry.

"Every time I play against Ricky, he thinks he's better than
me," Artest said.

On Indiana's next possession, Cavs forward Jumaine Jones was hit
with a technical and ejected. As Jones was leaving the floor,
Artest was struck by the coin, and he extended both middle fingers
and waved them at the crowd.

During a timeout, Cavs coach Keith Smart told referee Derrick
Stafford: "Artest is out of hand."

As the teams returned to the floor, public address announcer
Jeff Shreve asked the crowd to refrain from throwing objects -- to
the delight of Artest, who sat on the scorer's table patting Shreve
on the back as he talked into the microphone.

A few minutes later, during a stoppage in play, Artest ran by
and yelled to Shreve, "Thanks for the public announcement."

Cavs forward Darius Miles knows the Pacers rely on Artest's
energy and ability to push the emotional envelope.

"He's their Dennis Rodman," Miles said. "He's their John
Salley. He's Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and all those big guys all
in one. I don't see anything wrong with it."

Davis scored 27 points for Cleveland, which dropped its fourth
straight.

The Cavs (14-60) still need one win to match the franchise low
for victories in a season. Cleveland went 15-67 in 1970-71 -- its
inaugural season -- and again in 1981-82.

Leading 54-44 at halftime, the Pacers needed just 3:34 to blow
it open. Jamaal Tinsley hit a 3-pointer, Artest, Brad Miller and
Harrington scored on layups and Reggie Miller buried another
3-pointer from the corner to cap a 12-0 run for Indiana.

O'Neal, the only player in the Eastern Conference averaging 20
points and 10 rebounds, has been playing on a sore ankle since
injuring it early last month on a West Coast trip.

Harrington scored 17 points in the first half to help the Pacers
open a 54-44 lead at the break.

"It was good for my confidence to have a game like that,"
Harrington said. "I'd been struggling."

Game notes
The Pacers are 28-4 when scoring at least 100 points. ...
Indiana went 4-0 vs. Cleveland this season. ... Rookie Carlos
Boozer, one of the few bright spots for the Cavs this season,
averaged 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds in 14 games last month.
``March Madness,'' said Smart. ``He hasn't hit the wall. He's
played consistently throughout the year.'' ... Smart's future with
the Cavs remains uncertain, but he's not going to worry about
whether he'll be retained. He won't talk to GM Jim Paxson until the
season ends. ``If the door closes, I know another will open
somewhere along the line.''

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