7:30 PM ET, March 2, 2004
ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Ron Artest felt comfortable from the first moment he stepped back on the court.
Only 12 days after thumb surgery, Artest had 12 points and six rebounds as the Indiana Pacers sent Golden State to its third straight loss with a 96-88 victory Tuesday night in a game marred by an ugly confrontation in the final minutes.
Artest, activated earlier in the day, scored seven straight late in the game to help stave off Golden State's comeback.
"It's amazing," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "He had surgery 12 days ago and now he's back. They don't call him 'True Warrior' for nothing. He's a unique guy. A unique competitor."
Golden State's Cliff Robinson and Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal were ejected with 3:23 left after two separate incidents on each end of the court. The players had to be restrained by several teammates and coaches all the way off the court as they continued to yell at each other. Fans threw two plastic bottles toward the Pacers bench, and another bottle went toward O'Neal as he made his exit.
"That's the first time I've seen that happen in a pro basketball arena," O'Neal said. "I've seen it in football. That's extremely dangerous. It could put an eye out."
The players, who were teammates with Portland in O'Neal's rookie year in 1996-97, later shook hands outside the Pacers locker room.
"That's my guy," Robinson said. "It was just a moment in the game. If it's someone I had a conflict with, I would have done something different."
O'Neal said there were no hard feelings.
"Just two people being physical," he said. "I have a lot of respect for him."
Artest, an All-Star forward, had thumb surgery Feb. 19 to repair a torn ligament on his non-shooting hand. He began working out almost immediately after and was examined Monday in New York. He was cleared to play with a protective padding around the thumb.
"I was back to myself, attacking the basket and seeing the floor," he said.
Reggie Miller scored 11 of his 21 points in the second quarter, and the Pacers won for the fifth time in six games, including a 107-96 win over the Warriors last Tuesday. Indiana tied Minnesota for the best road record in the NBA (20-10). Miller had gone 5-for-25 for 13 points over his previous four games.
Mike Dunleavy had 24 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for the Warriors, who have lost four of five. The second-year forward had gone 3-for-17 with 13 points in his previous four games, but finished 6-of-13 from the field Tuesday.
"He was off the charts. He played absolutely phenomenal," coach Eric Musselman said.
Indiana, which swept the Warriors for the fourth time in seven seasons, turned a 52-36 halftime lead into a 25-point cushion after starting the second half with a 9-0 run. O'Neal scored six during the spurt.
But the Pacers couldn't hold it, going 5-of-19 in the third quarter as Golden State fought back without a true point guard on the floor.
The Warriors didn't get closer than four in the final 1:19.
For most of the night, the Warriors lacked offense on the 42nd anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's NBA-record 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa.
Jason Richardson added 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Warriors.
In one of the Warriors' prettiest plays this season, Erick Dampier blocked O'Neal and Brian Cardinal got the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Dunleavy, who threaded the ball past Artest with a crisp bounce pass and Richardson finished the sequence with a powerful two-handed reverse jam. He ended the third quarter with another acrobatic dunk, grabbing a miss by Dunleavy to the left of the rim and slamming it home.
Avery Johnson earned his first start in more than two seasons and first for Golden State since his initial stint with the club 10 years ago. But the 5-foot-11 guard played only eight minutes and was 0-for-3 with no points.
Golden State guard Rusty LaRue made his first appearance after the Warriors signed him to a 10-day contract Monday because of injuries to point guard Nick Van Exel (knee) and backup Speedy Claxton (broken right hand). LaRue was elevated from Asheville of the NBDL.
Indiana is a league-leading 15-6 (.714) vs. the West. ... To make room for Artest on the roster, the Pacers put rookie F James Jones on the injured list with a bruised left leg. ... Van Exel had an MRI on his troublesome left knee Monday and doctors determined Tuesday night the knee is still inflamed. Van Exel, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in October, will travel to Houston later in the week to see his regular doctor.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||31-76 (.408)||29-77 (.377)|
|3PM-3PA||8-20 (.400)||2-18 (.111)|
|FTM-FTA||26-36 (.722)||28-36 (.778)|
|Fast Break Points||6||5|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||29 (2/0)||26 (3/0)|