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O'Neal held to just nine points

4/5/2004

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers found out just how
good the Detroit Pistons are with Rasheed Wallace.

Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and the Pistons' defense
stifled Indiana for a 79-61 win Sunday, in a matchup of teams with
the top two records in the Eastern Conference.

The NBA's top defensive team gave up the fewest points it has
this season and held the league-leading Pacers to a season low.

Wallace scored just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, but he
solidified Detroit's defense with eight rebounds, three blocks and
two steals.

The Pistons were 0-3 against the Pacers this season, but they
hadn't played them with Wallace. Detroit is 16-5 since he was
acquired from Atlanta in a three-team trade on Feb. 19.

"This is a completely different team," said Indiana coach Rick
Carlisle, who was fired in Detroit last year after two division
titles in two seasons. "I'm hoping that we'll get in position to
have an opportunity to get to play them again."

Indiana has already wrapped up home-court advantage throughout
the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pacers could meet the Pistons
again in the conference finals.

"If they keep playing the way they've been playing the last two
weeks, they'll be there," Wallace said. "And if we keep playing
the way we've been the last 20-something games, then we'll be right
there."

Indiana may need to finish strong to stay ahead of the Western
Conference powers and have the NBA's best record when the regular
season ends April 14.

The Pistons took the lead for good early in the second quarter,
but couldn't put Indiana away until an 11-0 run gave them a 70-53
lead.

They won their eighth straight at home despite making just 38.6
percent of their shots because they held Indiana to 32.4 percent
shooting. Detroit set NBA records earlier this season by holding
five straight teams under 70 points and 36 consecutive opponents
under 100.

"It's nice to see our defense get back to holding teams under
70," Corliss Williamson said with a grin.

Detroit's Chauncey Billups had 10 points and seven assists.
Reserve Elden Campbell scored 11 and Williamson came off the bench
to add 10 points.

Ron Artest scored 16 points for the Pacers, who had won six of
seven despite not being at full strength.

Jermaine O'Neal, who is still recovering from a sprained left
knee, had just nine points in 37 minutes. O'Neal made two of his
first three shots, then missed nine straight shots before finishing
4-of-15.

"I hurt my team a lot," he said. "If I shoot better, I think
we can win the game, because we were still in it late. I just
didn't give us any lift. I want to play 36-37 minutes a game and
try to get healthy and get into a rhythm before the playoffs, but I
have to play better than this.

"This was very disappointing, because we're trying to clinch
the best record in the NBA."

Indiana's Kenny Anderson started in place of Jamaal Tinsley and
had six points and three assists. Tinsley, who missed his fourth
straight game, did not travel with the team because he has the flu.
The Pacers were also without Jonathan Bender, who watched the game
in a suit from the bench. He has been on the injured list with a
sprained right shoulder since March 24.

Both defensive-minded teams failed to provide much entertainment
in the first quarter -- Indiana led 18-15 -- but the coaches were
amusing.

After Carlisle shouted at the officials from midcourt, about 20
feet further than coaches are supposed to stand, Detroit coach
Larry Brown complained to them about where Carlisle was.

Then, Brown stood defiantly near midcourt as if he was marking
his territory.

"You get in your box! And you get in your box!" official Mark
Wunderlich hollered at both coaches.

Carlisle was fired by the Pistons after winning 100
regular-season games, two division titles and three playoff series
in two seasons and was replaced by Brown.

Game notes
Indiana's previous season low was 71 points, in a win over
Denver on Nov. 4. ... Detroit reached 50 wins for the third
straight year. ... The Pacers (20-8) and the Pistons (17-11) are
the only teams in the East with a winning record against the West.
... Hamilton, who led Connecticut to the 1999 NCAA title, attended
a concert featuring Beyonce on Saturday night, but he was glued to
the Connecticut-Duke game on television in a suite. "Beyonce was
here?" joked Hamilton, who planned to attend Monday's national
championship game.