Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 12/23

Game 1: Tuesday, December 23rd
Game 2: Friday, January 23rd

Pacers 79

(21-8, 10-5 away)

Rockets 71

(15-12, 9-3 home)

    Coverage: FSMW

    7:30 PM ET, December 23, 2003

    Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    1 2 3 4 T
    IND 19 20 18 2279
    HOU 14 14 21 2271

    Top Performers

    Ind: J. O'Neal 21 Pts, 14 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Hou: S. Francis 23 Pts, 5 Reb, 4 Ast, 4 Stl

    O'Neal nails 15th double-double of season

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal did nothing out of the ordinary as far as the Houston Rockets were concerned.

    O'Neal had 21 points and 14 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 79-71 victory Tuesday night.

    "That's just normal for him. He nearly always has a double-double," Houston's Maurice Taylor said.

    Despite O'Neal's statistics, Taylor was more impressed with Ron Artest.

    "Jermaine wasn't really shooting that well tonight," Taylor said. "It was Artest that made their team go."

    Artest added 21 points and Anthony Johnson 13 for the Pacers.

    "We played together tonight," Artest said. "When they took away one thing, we would go to the next option. We haven't been able to handle the zone very well, but tonight we moved the ball."

    Indiana coach Rick Carlisle was impressed with Artest's enthusiasm.

    "Ron loves to play basketball and this year he has made it all about basketball only," Carlisle said. "He's really a fine player and he has been focused all year."

    Steve Francis led Houston with 23 points, and Jim Jackson had 14 and Taylor had a season-high 13 rebounds.

    Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy was critical of his team's offensive performance.

    "We struggle against the best defenses and again our passing is poor," Van Gundy said. "It's hard to shoot off a bad pass and we also missed 10 free throws."

    Taylor agreed with Van Gundy.

    "We weren't hitting open shots," Taylor said. "It wasn't anything they were doing, we just missed a ton of layups and open shots that usually come easy."

    Houston pull within three at 59-56 with 8:52 left, but the Pacers scored 12 straight, including five by Artest, to take a 71-56 lead with 4:59 left.

    The Rockets made another late charge with nine straight points to cut the deficit to 75-69 with 51 seconds left, but couldn't get closer.

    Indiana fell behind 6-0 to start the game but then outscored Houston 15-1, including six points by O'Neal, to lead 15-7 with 4:02 left in the first period. The Rockets cut their deficit to 22-20, before the Pacers moved ahead 39-28 at halftime.

    Houston was never closer than five in the third period and trailed 57-49 going into the final quarter.

    Game Notes: Houston is 12-2 when leading after the first quarter. ... Houston is 10-2 when scoring 80 or more, and 1-8 when scoring less than 80 points. ... The Rockets are 14-4 when Steve Francis has more than five assists and 5-10 when he has five assists or less. ... Indiana hasn't lost two consecutive game this season. ... Houston activated guard Mike Wilks from the injured list Tuesday and placed forward John Amaechi on the injured list with an intestinal virus. ... Houston is 2-10 after trailing in the first quarter.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 79 71
    FGM-FGA 28-74 (.378) 25-71 (.352)
    3PM-3PA 3-11 (.273) 4-17 (.235)
    FTM-FTA 20-24 (.833) 17-27 (.630)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-47 13-49
    Assists 20 15
    Turnovers 11 16
    Steals 8 6
    Blocks 2 7
    Fast Break Points 0 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 20 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Jermaine O'Neal O'Neal
    Points: 21
    Reb: 14
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1
    Steve Francis Francis
    Points: 23
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 0