INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers won't rest until they end
the season with the NBA's best record.
Ron Artest scored 21 points, and Al Harrington added 16 points
and 11 rebounds in the Pacers' 84-64 victory over the Toronto
Raptors on Friday night.
The Pacers, an NBA-best 56-20, pulled most of their starters in
the second half after building a 15-point advantage. Jermaine
O'Neal played just 18 minutes as he continues to recover from a
sprained left knee. He scored eight points.
"Jermaine O'Neal is having slight residual effects from the
injury against Chicago, and the medical staff felt it was best to
limit him to 24 minutes," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We talked
about it before the game with the guys and said we need other
players to step up."
The Pacers led 45-33 at halftime, with Harrington and Jeff
Foster helping them to 52-38 edge in rebounds. Foster finished with
13 rebounds and nine points.
"It's certainly not hard to be focused and to come out and play
hard to win every night," said Artest, who was 8-of-8 from the
line and had six assists. "We can't worry about winning `X' number
of games and winning the conference. The coaches have told us to
continue playing hard, and the records will take care of
Jalen Rose led Toronto with 22 points on 10-of-22 shooting. The
Raptors have lost six straight to fall well back in the race for a
playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The firing of longtime general manager Glen Grunwald on Thursday
has only added to the team's frustrations, with many players
fearing coach Kevin O'Neill could be next.
"If you ask them, every one them is assuming that I'm going to
be fired after all the articles that have come out," O'Neill said.
"Unfortunately, it puts those guys in a tough position because
they don't really know or have a feeling for who they're going to
playing for in their minds.
"I don't know what my situation is going to end up being.
That's something we'll deal with at the end of the year. But the
players are the ones I feel bad for."
Toronto star Vince Carter scored 10 of his 21 points in the
first quarter, but struggled from the field, making just eight of
"We brought nothing to the floor tonight," Carter said. "The
performance today, shots not falling -- the energy and effort is not
there. Everything has gone south right now.
"We've got seven games left, if I'm not mistaken, and it has to
get done if we want to make it to our second season. We've got to
turn it around."
The Raptors scored nine of their first 16 points off turnovers
to pull within six with 3:59 left in the first quarter, but got no
closer than five the rest of the way thanks to the Pacers' strong
performance at the foul line.
Indiana made 23-for-26 free throws, while holding Toronto to 35
percent shooting and 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the second half.
Indiana's Kenny Anderson, who made his third straight start in
place of Jamaal Tinsley, had eight points and four assists.
Tinsley did not dress for the game because of a viral sinus
infection and might not be available until early next week,
O'Neill was an assistant to Carlisle in Detroit from
2001-03, helping the Pistons to back-to-back 50-win seasons and two
division titles. Carlisle credits O'Neill, who faces an uncertain
future since Grunwald's firing, with much of that success. "No
matter what happens, he's a guy that's going to be at the top of
someone's list," Carlisle said. ... The Pacers will keep F
Jonathan Bender on the injured list for their game against Detroit
on Sunday. He has a sprained right shoulder. "When Jonathan Bender
is on the injured list most of the time, you've got a pretty (darn)
good team," O'Neil said.