INDIANAPOLIS, April 10 (Ticker) --
With their season at stake, Jermaine
and the Indiana Pacers played like it.
O'Neal scored 17 of his 29 points in a huge first quarter as the
Pacers built a 21-point lead and held on for a 98-82 victory
over the Toronto Raptors, who had their franchise-record
nine-game winning streak snapped.
"Any player who has trouble getting up for a game like this is
not a good player," O'Neal said. "After the Cleveland game (a
loss Monday), this city, organization and coaching staff
Indiana (38-40) snapped a two-game slide and remained very much
alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race, which only became
further muddled. Toronto (39-39) lost for the first time since
superstar Vince Carter
underwent season-ending knee surgery and
remained tied with Milwaukee for seventh place in the East.
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Brad Miller, and the rest of Indy's starting five, were sensational.
One of the three teams will miss the playoffs. Indiana hosts
Milwaukee on Friday in another playoff-type game.
"The season doesn't stop today," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said.
"We're in the race. It's good to be in the race. There's
four more games to go and you run it."
"We control our own destiny," O'Neal added. "We have the Bucks
(on) Friday. They're struggling. We need to jump on them
early. We need the crowd and we need a team effort."
Playing in front of a raucous crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse, the
Pacers sped to a 37-16 lead after one quarter. O'Neal, an
All-Star for the first time this year, wasted no time setting
the tone, making 5-of-7 shots and 7-of-8 free throws.
"Jermaine came out with a lot of intensity," Raptors forward
said. "They ran the pick-and-roll well early on
and he was able to knock down some shots and get into a groove."
"Jermaine kept us fired up all night," Pacers forward Jeff
said. "He is normally a quiet person who doesn't say a
lot. But it was his intent not to let us down and not to let us
scored eight points and rookie point guard Jamaal
handed out seven assists as Indiana shot 61 percent
(13-of-21) without a turnover in the period. Meanwhile, Toronto
made just five shots and committed four turnovers.
O'Neal also had 15 rebounds and two blocks. Miller added 23
points and 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who nearly blew the lead
but regrouped in the second half and won for just the third time
in their last 10 games.
Former Pacer Davis had 24 points and nine boards for the
Raptors, who had won the previous seven meetings with Indiana
and hold the edge should the teams finish with the same record.
"No one said it was going to be easy," Davis said. "It's not
like we're going to walk into the playoffs as easily as it
appears based on the last few games."
The Pacers nearly undid all of their good work with the worst
second quarter in club history. They scored just eight points
as the Raptors closed to 45-40 at halftime.
A layup by Keon Clark
pulled Toronto within 47-44 in the first
minute of the second half. Indiana regrouped and scored six
"I wasn't going to let us lose," O'Neal said. "I told Reggie
before the game, if no one else comes through, he and I
had to get it done. We couldn't let this team lose again."
A 3-pointer by Reggie Miller rebuilt the lead to 62-50 with 5:43
left in the period. The Pacers led by at least 10 points
thereafter, as consecutive baskets by Brad Miller and O'Neal
midway through the fourth quarter stalled Toronto's final rally.
"They played hard from the start and they knew tonight was a big
game and they made their shots," said Raptors coach Lenny
Wilkens, whose club beat Indiana on Sunday.
Reggie Miller scored 15 points and Tinsley added 14 and nine
assists for Indiana, which shot 47 percent (35-of-74) and held a
41-32 rebounding edge.
scored 22 points for Toronto, which shot 42.5