Denver reverts to old ways

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jermaine O'Neal had his best game of the young season, while Carmelo Anthony struggled through his worst game as a pro.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Indiana Pacers beat the Denver Nuggets 71-60 Tuesday night.

O'Neal scored 25 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, and Anthony had just 2 points on 1-for-13 shooting.

The scary thing is, O'Neal says he can play better.

"I'm still really not shooting the ball the way I want," O'Neal said. "Rebound wise, I'm getting better. It's early. I hope I can get it going on offense."

O'Neal dominated on both ends of the floor and almost single-handedly staved off a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Nuggets in a game that was, from a scoring standpoint, offensive.

The Nuggets shot just 29 percent and committed 23 turnovers. The Pacers weren't much better, shooting 35 percent and committing 18 turnovers. But they withstood a 17-2 surge by Denver in the final period.

"This game wasn't much on the beauty scale," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "But in terms of the effort, intensity and passion that went into our win, I give our team high marks."

The 131 points are the ninth-lowest total since the NBA instituted the shot clock in 1954-55.

Earl Boykins led the Nuggets with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. His teammates finished 16-for-67 (24 percent) from the floor.

Ron Artest and Al Harrington harassed and frustrated Anthony, last year's NCAA Final Four MVP, all night, getting a hand in his face on nearly every shot.

After the game, Anthony refused to give credit to the Indiana defense.

"I just shot poorly," he said. "It wasn't that they played great defense. The ball didn't go in for me tonight."

Carlisle disagreed.

"Some nights you struggle, but I'd like to think we had something to do with that," he said.

Harrington and Artest also made Anthony work on the defensive end, backing him down in the post and running him through and around screens to wear him down. Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik sat his
young star for the entire second and fourth quarters.

When asked what the key to stopping Anthony was, Harrington said, "Play him hard. He's a rookie. He's not a Michael Jordan or someone like that. But he's good."

Artest had 18 points, six rebounds and five steals, and Harrington added 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Pacers.

The Pacers used a 16-0 run in the third quarter to take control of the game. Indiana held a 39-34 lead at halftime, then outscored the Nuggets 21-7 in the third to stretch the lead to 60-41.

"There were a couple times we had good looks and we didn't knock them down," Bzdelik said. "It goes back to being more efficient offensively."

The Nuggets rallied in the fourth with Anthony watching from the bench. They went on their big run in the first seven minutes to close the gap to 62-58.

Rodney White had nine points during the burst, and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

O'Neal ended the run with a pretty spin move and layup, then followed that up with a short, one-handed jumper and two free throws to push the lead to 68-58.

"Jermaine played a spectacular game," Carlisle said. "Every big shot, every big rebound, he was instrumental."
Game notes
After outscoring the Pacers 24-5 in fast-break points in
their preseason meeting Oct. 15, the Nuggets managed only four
transition points in the first half Tuesday night. ... Denver's
seven third-quarter points were more than twice as many as the
franchise low _ when they scored just three points in the first
quarter last Nov. 27 at San Antonio. ... Those seven points were
the fewest the Pacers have given up in the third quarter since
joining the NBA in 1976. ... Indiana Hoosiers coach Mike Davis
attended the game and received a rousing ovation when his face
appeared on the scoreboard.