SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 3 (Ticker) -- Jermaine O'Neal
and the Indiana Pacers showed the Sacramento Kings their new, tougher look.
O'Neal scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and the Pacers shut down Chris Webber and the rest of the high-powered Kings on their vaunted home floor in a 97-86 victory.
O'Neal made the Eastern Conference All-Star team despite playing most of the season out of position at center. When the Pacers acquired center Brad Miller from Chicago as part of a seven-player deal, it allowed O'Neal to move to his natural position of power forward.
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Jermaine O'Neal held more than his own against Vlade and Co.
O'Neal was too much for the Kings as he made 13-of-24 shots and grabbed 11 rebounds. In the fourth quarter, he took over, making a series of jumpers before sealing the win with a ferocious dunk in the final minute.
"I got upset with myself because I missed some point-blank shots and a couple turnaround jump shots," O'Neal said. "But then I just really focused and I knew I had to have the baskets."
Austin Croshere added 19 points off the bench for the Pacers, who held the Kings to their lowest total at ARCO Arena this season and dealt them just their third loss in 32 home games.
"Since we made the trade, we've been really tough defensively, we rebound the basketball, we really get into people and are aggressive on the defensive end," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "Because of it, we're a much better team."
"Defense is a lot easier to pick up than offense," said Miller, who tangled with Shaquille O'Neal earlier this season. "We've just been locking people up. We want to go out there with the impression that when teams play the Pacers, they know they're going to get hit with some elbows and have some physical beating in there and you've got to come to war and strap it on."
Austin Croshere scored 19 points off the bench for Indiana, which completed a crucial West Coast swing at 2-2 without Reggie Miller. The sharpshooting guard was serving the first of a two-game suspension for fighting with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
"Reggie's a huge part of this team and anytime someone is unavailable, it's up to everyone to really pick it up," said Croshere.
Webber made just 2-of-16 shots and scored a season-low 13 points.
He was saddled with foul trouble in the first half and hounded by O'Neal throughout.
"You just try to wear him out on defense and try to make him really work on offense," O'Neal said. "Tonight he just missed shots."
"We got Chris into foul trouble, and it cut off his rhythm a little bit," Thomas said.
Mike Bibby scored 19 points and Peja Stojakovic added 18 for the Kings, who shot an uncharacteristic 35 percent (30-of-86) overall and were outscored, 31-17, in the fourth quarter.
Sacramento, which plays a wide-open style, was slowed by the physical play of Indiana.
"We played very poorly," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "It seemed like the whole game, we were totally out of sync."
"It was a very bad game. It just happens," Stojakovic said. "They came into the game real aggressive, especially at the end."
A three-point play by Scot Pollard gave the Kings a 74-70 lead with just under nine minutes to go. O'Neal made two jumpers to give the Pacers the lead for good at 78-77 with five minutes left and Croshere added a 3-pointer 38 seconds later.
O'Neal answered a jumper by Bibby with one of his own. After a free throw by Webber, O'Neal buried a 22-footer from the right wing for an 85-80 lead with 2:32 left.
"With Reggie not being there, I knew I had to make shots," O'Neal said.
Bibby made a free throw, but Croshere made two, Jonathan Bender hit a short jumper and Kevin Ollie sank a pair from the line for a 91-81 lead with 1:06 to play.
Bender scored 16 points, Miller added 12 and 11 rebounds and Ron Artest added 11 points for Indiana, which shot 43 percent (35-of-81) and held a 57-45 rebounding advantage. Artest was acquired in the trade, as was Ollie, who had nine assists and eight rebounds.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 14 points and Vlade Divac added 12 and 14 boards for Sacramento, which made just 19-of-33 free throws.
The Pacers controlled most of the first half as the Kings shot poorly and Webber sat with foul trouble. They took a 50-48 halftime lead but struggled themselves in the third quarter as the Kings rallied to take a 69-66 lead into the final period.