AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Rick Carlisle refused to gloat after beating the team that fired him.
Jermaine O'Neal had 22 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday night as the Indiana Pacers held on for an 89-87 victory over the Detroit Pistons, who got rid of Carlisle after two successful seasons.
"It's not about me and it never will be," Carlisle said. "It's about this group of players, who played at a high level and with a lot of passion to earn this win against a good team."
In the season opener for both clubs, Indiana led by 10 midway through the fourth quarter before a 13-2 run put Detroit ahead 87-86 with two minutes left. O'Neal scored a go-ahead basket with 1:41 to go and Jeff Foster made a free throw with 14.8 seconds remaining.
Detroit's Chauncey Billups missed an 18-footer with 4.8 seconds
left, and Mehmet Okur failed on a hurried 3-pointer just before the
Carlisle helped the Pistons win 100 regular-season games, two
division titles and three playoff series the past two years, but it
wasn't enough to save his job.
"He didn't really talk much about it, but we knew in the back
of his mind he really wanted to win this one," O'Neal said.
Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who spent the past six seasons
in Philadelphia, replaced Carlisle, who advanced past Brown and the
76ers in the second round of the playoffs. Carlisle succeeded fired
coach Isiah Thomas in July after almost deciding to be a television
analyst this season.
Carlisle was given a rousing ovation when he was introduced, and
he responded with a wave to the fans at The Palace. He was
expressionless as his eyes followed last season's Central Division
banner raised to the rafters.
"Maybe for a few seconds I allowed myself to enjoy that because
there's a sense of pride in helping that great group of guys
accomplish what they did over the past two seasons," Carlisle
said. "But, my mind quickly had to get back to the game at hand."
Billups pointed toward Carlisle after embracing his former coach
upon his arrival at the arena two hours earlier, and Ben Wallace
hugged him just before tipoff.
"He did a great job for this team," Wallace said. "That's the
least I could've done for him."
Wallace led the Pistons with 16 points, 17 rebounds, five steals
and six blocks. Okur scored 17 off the bench. Tayshaun Prince had
Richard Hamilton and Billups, Detroit's top two scorers last
season, combined for just 19 points.
"When you shoot 6-for-31 with those two, and still have a
chance to win, you must be doing some good things," Brown said.
As expected, Detroit's Darko Milicic did not play. The Pistons
do not plan to use the 18-year-old Milicic much early in the
season, despite making him the second overall pick in the draft.
Scot Pollard, acquired by Indiana in a trade for Brad
Miller, had two points and four rebounds. ... Detroit's Elden
Campbell, a free agent acquisition, scored 11 points. ... Kid Rock
sang "America The Beautiful" and then sat courtside, several rows
in front of Bob Seger, another Michigan resident.