Artest, O'Neal lead Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Ron Artest keeps getting better and the
Indiana Pacers keep winning.

Artest had 20 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, four steals
and four blocks and the Pacers held Philadelphia star Allen Iverson
in check on their way to beating the 76ers 90-77 Friday night.

"Ron Artest did a little of everything tonight," Pacers coach
Rick Carlisle said. "The last two games he has been great,

Jermaine O'Neal added 21 points, six rebounds and six blocks for
the NBA-leading Pacers (14-2), who won their eighth game in a row,
setting up a showdown in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Sunday.

Indiana put together another dominating defensive performance in
a season full of them.

Iverson had a season-low 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting. He came
into the game averaging a league-leading 28.1 points a game.

"I missed a lot of shots I can make with my eyes closed,"
Iverson said. "Once you start struggling missing layups, it's
harder to make a shot when you're shooting jumpers."

Iverson joined a host of high scorers -- including the Los
Angeles Clippers' Corey Maggette, Seattle's Rashard Lewis, Denver's
Carmelo Anthony and Detroit's Chauncey Billups -- who have struggled
against Indiana.

Iverson said after the game he was feeling a little under the
weather, but with so many teammates injured -- including Derrick
Coleman, Glenn Robinson and Todd MacCullough -- he couldn't afford
to sit out.

Coleman missed the game with a left knee strain that kept him
out of six games earlier this season.

The rest of the Sixers shot 48 percent from the field, but the
Pacers still held their opponent under 80 points for the ninth time
in 10 games.

Carlisle threw a host of defenders at Iverson, including Reggie
Miller, Fred Jones, Artest and Anthony Johnson.

"You've got to be lucky too," Carlisle said. "He was missing
shots that were point blank, but I'd like to think we had something
to do with that."

Iverson agreed.

"They played great help defense against me and did a good
job," Iverson said. "I was getting frustrated. You have to take
your hat off to them."

Indiana was just as effective on the offensive end, using a 16-4
run in the first quarter to take control of the game.

The Sixers went nearly seven minutes without a field goal in the
quarter and shot 23.5 percent from the field in falling behind

"We wanted to be the aggressor," O'Neal said. "We wanted to
put those guys on their heels because they're very tough."

Kenny Thomas led the Sixers with 14 points and seven rebounds,
and Eric Snow added 12 points and 10 assists.

Jones brought the sellout crowd to its feet at the end of the
third quarter with a thunderous two-handed reverse dunk that gave
the Pacers a 77-60 lead.

The Sixers tried to mount a comeback in the fourth, scoring
seven straight points to get within 10 at 79-69, but couldn't get
any closer.

"Their athleticism really hurt us at times," Sixers coach
Randy Ayers said. "When we made a mistake, they were able to
capitalize and never let us get it down to single digits."

Al Harrington added 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for
Indiana, which starts a five-game West Coast road trip on Sunday
against the Western Conference-leading Lakers.

The Pacers have won a franchise-best seven road games in a row,
but face tough tests against the Lakers, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle
and Sacramento.

"To make it eight (in a row) would be great and that's our
plan," Carlisle said. "We're going out there to win."

Game notes
Pacers G Jamaal Tinsley missed his second straight game
with a sore lower back. ... Sixers center Marc Jackson left the
game briefly in the third quarter after falling awkwardly on his
left ankle. ... Greg Buckner was called for a flagrant foul for
grabbing Harrington under the basket and throwing him to the floor
in the second quarter. ... Iverson has had a steal in 40 straight
games, the longest active streak in the NBA.


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