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O'Neal notches double-double on return

3/29/2004

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal proved his knee was strong enough to carry the Indiana Pacers to victory Sunday night.

The All-Star forward returned from an injury and had 23 points,
14 rebounds and four blocks to lead the Pacers to an 87-80 win over
the Miami Heat.

"I give a lot of credit to Jermaine O'Neal for stepping in
there and playing today," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "His
knee is better but it's still a little sore, and it's tough to come
in there after missing a couple of games."

O'Neal made the start for Indiana after missing the past two
games with a bruised left knee, injured in a win over the Chicago
Bulls last Monday. O'Neal played 35 minutes, scoring 10 points in
the third quarter.

"I didn't shoot as well as I wanted," said O'Neal, who
finished 8-of-21 from the field. "I think it's rust. Hopefully,
it'll come with a day of practice and these two games with
Milwaukee."

Caron Butler, Eddie Jones and Dwyane Wade each scored 14 points
for the Heat, which had their seven-game winning streak end.

Ron Artest added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the NBA-leading
Pacers despite having to leave the game briefly with a sprained
right ankle.

Artest was later hit in the face going up for a rebound in a
physical game in which the teams combined for 49 fouls, including
four technicals and two flagrants. Artest will have his nose
examined Monday to see if it's broken.

"They play hard: we go hard," said Artest, who also finished
with six steals and four assists. "We just had to keep going to
the basket.

"I didn't play the best, but we won."

Miami committed five fouls in the first eight minutes, while the
Pacers made their first seven shots from the foul line and finished
34-for-43 for the game. The Heat committed 11 turnovers in the
first half, which the Pacers quickly converted into 15 points.

"The fact that they're the most physical defensive team in the
league and never foul, that's a helluva team," Miami coach Stan
Van Gundy said. "It wasn't me being upset about the fouls called
on us. I just thought we were attacking pretty darned good, too.

"We'll have to look (at the film). Their technique must be
great because they lean on you and never foul."

Indiana, which shot 43 percent from the field and 67 percent
from 3-point range in the first half, led 50-40 at halftime after
leading by as many as 16 points. But the Heat opened the third
quarter on a 9-4 run to pull within 54-51 with 6:57 left and held
the Pacers to 27 percent shooting in the second half.

"It felt like the score was just stuck for about three or four
minutes," Butler said. "Neither of us could score. That really
hurt us at the end."

Wade's bucket five minutes later gave Miami its first tie,
65-all, since early in the first quarter.

The Pacers countered with a 6-2 run of their own in the fourth
quarter, capped by Reggie Miller's 3-pointer with 3:34 left to put
them up 83-78 and on top for good.

"That possession where Ron went in and kicked it back out to
Jamaal (Tinsley), and he went back into Ron, back to Jamaal and out
to Reggie, who hit that 3 which put us up by nine, was probably the
most important possession of the game," Carlisle said.

Al Harrington, who started in O'Neal's absence, added nine
points off the bench for Indiana.

"I thought we did a pretty good job of fighting in the second
half," Jones said. "We just wish we could have played a little
bit better. They're a tough team, but we're right there with them,
and we feel like we can do some things."

Game notes
Van Gundy was called for a technical foul at 5:41 in the
third quarter. ... Artest drew the biggest reaction from the home
crowd of 17,284, missing a wide open, one-handed dunk try with his
heavily bandaged left hand in the first quarter. Artest has been
hampered by a sprain to his left thumb for much of the season.