Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 1/14

Game 1: Saturday, January 14th
Game 2: Saturday, January 21st
Game 3: Wednesday, March 22nd
Game 4: Tuesday, April 4th

Bulls 85

(29-39, 14-21 away)

Pacers 95

(34-32, 21-12 home)

    Coverage: FSMW

    7:00 PM ET, March 22, 2006

    Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

    1 2 3 4 T
    CHI 27 21 22 1585
    IND 14 27 26 2895

    Top Performers

    Chi: A. Nocioni 17 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Ast

    Ind: S. Jackson 24 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

    Pacers beat Bulls in O'Neal's return from injury

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal didn't need to play his best to give the Indiana Pacers a much-needed boost.

    In his first action in two months, the All-Star forward looked rusty at times and several of his shots were blocked, but his return sparked the Pacers to a 95-85 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

    "The motivation of having J.O. back with us was a lift," Indiana's Stephen Jackson said. "Even if J.O. didn't come out and get 30 tonight, just his presence was big. He's our leader, he's an All-Star."

    O'Neal scored 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting and missed half of his 12 free throw attempts in 25 minutes. He missed 24 games with a torn left groin, but entered the game to a loud ovation with 6:21 left in the first quarter. He scored on his first shot with 5:58 left in the period.

    "I was nervous walking up to the scorer's table, but as soon as I checked into the game and the fans started chanting, I was all right," he said.

    O'Neal then turned his focus to helping Indiana secure a precious victory as the season winds down and the Pacers (34-32) fight for a playoff spot.

    Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said the Pacers' 30-point loss to Memphis on Tuesday affected O'Neal.

    "He may have moved his schedule up because of what happened in Memphis last night," Carlisle said. "We knew he was getting closer and closer. I thought it could be this week some time."

    Jackson led the Pacers with 24 points.

    The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Pacers and extended Chicago's losing streak to four games.

    Andres Nocioni had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls. Ben Gordon, Chicago's leading scorer, was held to nine points on 3-for-15 shooting. Indiana held Chicago to 5-for-22 shooting in the fourth quarter.

    Chicago led 72-67 early in the fourth quarter before Jackson scored seven points during a 12-0 Indiana run that gave the Pacers a 79-72 lead.

    Chicago closed to 84-80 on a basket by Nocioni with 3:14 left, but the Pacers finished the game on an 11-5 run.

    "I thought we got a little bit stagnant and they were able to make plays when they had to," Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich said. "We couldn't stop them when it counted."

    The Bulls shot 52 percent in the first quarter to take a 27-14 lead. Indiana went 12-of-16 from the line in the second quarter to cut Chicago's lead to 48-41 at halftime.

    By the end of the third quarter, the Pacers had cut Chicago's lead to 70-67. The Pacers led briefly in the period, but Chicago finished on a 10-4 run to take a lead into the fourth.

    Hinrich said the Bulls have wasted opportunities all season.

    "They were coming off a big loss last night and we had them on the ropes early in the game," he said. "But that's been our M.O. this year. We've got to believe in ourselves. We can't keep blowing opportunities to win games like tonight's."

    Indiana forward Jeff Foster said the Pacers were glad to get O'Neal back with enough time to get him in shape if Indiana makes the playoffs.

    "It's nice to have our best player back, and we know what he can do when he gets his legs under him," Foster said.

    Game notes

    Foster had double-digit rebounds for seven straight games before pulling down nine against Memphis on Tuesday night. He started a new streak by grabbing 14 on Wednesday. ... Chicago's Gordon has struggled lately, reaching double figures in just two of his last seven games. He entered the game averaging 16.4 points. ... Indiana's David Harrison started for the first time since playing at Cleveland on Jan. 24. ... Jamaal Tinsley returned for the Pacers after missing Tuesday's game at Memphis with a sinus infection. He has missed 34 of Indiana's 66 games with injury or illness this season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 85 95
    FGM-FGA 33-82 (.402) 32-75 (.427)
    3PM-3PA 2-15 (.133) 3-14 (.214)
    FTM-FTA 17-25 (.680) 28-39 (.718)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-40 7-44
    Assists 16 20
    Turnovers 13 13
    Steals 5 8
    Blocks 5 7
    Fast Break Points 9 10
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 30 (1/0) 23 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 15 13

    Top Performers

    Andres Nocioni Nocioni
    Points: 17
    Reb: 10
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0
    Stephen Jackson Jackson
    Points: 24
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 3