O'Neal, Harrington post strong efforts


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers' inside game was too
strong for Philadelphia on Saturday night.

The 76ers' offense was too ragged.

Jermaine O'Neal scored 23 points and Al Harrington added 21 as
the Pacers leaned on their middle men to pull away from the
banged-up 76ers 81-74.

"Al brought great energy," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
"He was patient on offense and we needed someone to step up
offensively instead of Jermaine."

For the Pacers, it was yet another example of how they have
built the Eastern Conference's best record at 43-16.

On a night Indiana missed its first nine 3-pointers, shot 42
percent, was outrebounded 41-38 and played without forward Jonathan
Bender, the Pacers still found a way to win. Bender was attending a
funeral in Mississippi and is expected to rejoin the Sunday.

Still, Indiana won for the fourth time in five games and won its
third straight over the 76ers this season. The Pacers can sweep the
season series by winning at Philadelphia on April 12.

"We all must work together to help them from packing down on
Jermaine and to take up the slack for Ron (Artest)," Harrington
said of the Pacers' injured All-Star.

Philadelphia had even bigger problems than contending with the
Pacers' inside tandem.

Without injured All-Star guard Allen Iverson and forward Glenn
Robinson -- who account for nearly 36 percent of the 76ers' points --
the offense struggled.

Iverson, the NBA's second-leading scorer, missed his third
straight game with a bruised right shoulder, and Robinson was out
with a strained right elbow. Neither player even made the trip.

But the 76ers had survived before without Iverson and Robinson,
winning both times they played without their top two scorers.

On Saturday, it was a different story.

Philadelphia committed 21 turnovers, four fewer than its season
high, and made just three of 17 shots in the third quarter when the
Pacers took control. The 76ers' 11-point third quarter was also
their second-lowest total in a quarter this season. They scored 10
points in the fourth quarter of an 85-74 loss to the Pacers on Nov.

Kenny Thomas led the Sixers with 20 points and 11 rebounds,
while Samuel Dalembert added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Willie
Green had 16 points off the bench but the offense never seemed to
get in sync and it wasn't quite enough to prevent the 76ers from
losing their fourth straight and 16th in 21 games.

"It's tough on the offensive end," Dalembert said. "We have
to find a way to score points."

Indiana wasn't much better offensively, but was able to exploit
the 76ers' interior with O'Neal and Harrington accounting for more
than half the team's points.

The Pacers got a typical game from O'Neal, who hit 10 of 20
shots and grabbed eight rebounds. The difference was Harrington,
who was 10-of-20 from the field and had nine rebounds -- six on the
offensive end.

"He's big enough, strong enough and athletic enough,"
Philadelphia coach Chris Ford said. "He pounds guys to get
second-chance opportunities."

Although the Pacers led most of the way, they were only ahead
47-41 midway through the third quarter.

Harrington helped turn the game by igniting a 7-0 run late in
the third quarter and an 8-2 run that ended with Anthony Johnson's
18-footer to open the fourth quarter, making it 63-47.

The Pacers led 79-64 with 3:45 to go before allowing
Philadelphia a 6-0 run to get back into the game.

But the Sixers couldn't get any closer than that until Thomas
hit two free throws with 15.4 seconds left.

"That's the type of game we're looking for him to play,"
O'Neal said of Harrington.<

^Notes:@ The Pacers three-game winning streak against
Philadelphia is their longest streak since winning 10 straight from
February 1996 to February 1999. ... O'Neal played with a sore right
knee, the same knee that bothered him in December. Carlisle said he
has tendinitis in the knee, an injury flared up in the past week.
... Philadelphia shot 42.6 percent from the field, the first time
in three games it was better than 40 percent. ... Green set
career-high by making seven baskets and dishing out six assists.