EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Besides talent and depth, the
Indiana Pacers have something else that might eventually end the
New Jersey Nets' two-year run as Eastern Conference champions --
Jermaine O'Neal had 20 points and 10 rebounds and the Pacers
held the Nets to 29 second-half points for a 90-84 victory Saturday
night in a matchup of division leaders.
"Our offense wasn't going but defensively, we were tough
tonight, especially in the fourth quarter," said Ron Artest, who
added 18 points and a big block in the fourth quarter. "I could
say they played horrible but I've got to give us some credit."
The Pacers should take all the credit. They limited New Jersey
to 9-for-34 shooting from the field in the second half and forced
13 turnovers, including big ones by Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd
with the game on the line.
"We completely shut down," Martin said. "We didn't have as
much movement in the second half as we did in the first. Basically,
we gave the game away by not running the offense."
Indiana limited New Jersey to 10 fourth-quarter points -- one off
the team record-low -- in overcoming an 11-point fourth-quarter
deficit. The triumph also gave the Pacers wins over the Nets and
San Antonio Spurs -- the teams that met for the NBA title -- on
Al Harrington added 15 points and 12 rebounds and Reggie Miller,
who scored 28 in the win over San Antonio, sealed the Pacers' 10th
win in 11 games with four free throws and a steal in the final
"On nights when you struggle offensively, your defense has to
hold you in it," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "It came down
to a free-throw game."
Kidd had 21 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in a 45-minute
night, but only two assists and two rebounds came in the final
quarter. Richard Jefferson had 14 -- all in the first half.
"We just couldn't hit a shot," Jefferson said. "I mean they
had a good defensive effort, but we just couldn't hit a shot."
Kidd hit two 3-pointers and had an assist in a 13-2 spurt that
gave New Jersey a 74-63 lead entering the final quarter.
When O'Neal picked up his fifth foul in the opening seconds of
the fourth quarter, New Jersey seemed in good shape. But the Pacers
came back by hitting four 3-pointers and limiting the Nets to just
three baskets in the opening 11 minutes.
Anthony Johnson got Indiana within 78-76 with 6:33 left with a
3-pointer and Jamaal Tinsley gave the Pacers the lead with another
3 with 6:02 to play.
There was little scoring over the next four minutes. Artest
stretched the lead to 81-78 with two free throws with 4:04 to go.
Kerry Kittles got New Jersey within one with a layup with 2:45 to
On a play set up by Artest's block on Jefferson, Tinsley made it
82-80 by hitting a free throw with 1:49 left.
Martin and Kidd had turnovers on the next two possessions and
the Nets missed a chance to take the lead when Jefferson missed on
O'Neal hit a 14-footer for an 84-80 lead with 29 seconds left.
The game had all the intensity of a playoff game, with the
usually half-empty Continental Airlines Arena almost filled to
It was physical, too. Artest sprained his left thumb running
into a pick in the second quarter. Martin came close to losing his
cool when low-bridged by Jeff Foster in the third quarter, and
Harrington and Rogers exchanged strangleholds on attempted layups
at different points in the game.
Kidd pushed the ball upcourt at will in the first half in
helping the Nets take a 55-45 lead. New Jersey outscored Indiana
15-0 on the fastbreak and 30-14 in the paint.
The Nets 55 first-half points were just two shy of being
the most scored against the Pacers in a half. ...Indiana is now
15-7 on the road and 21-6 vs. East. ...Kidd's son, T.J., wore a
Martin jersey and headband in serving as a pre-game ballboy. ...The
loss snapped a four-game home winning streak and was only the
second in 12 games at home for New Jersey.