Late in the Game, it's the J.O. Show
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 22 (Ticker) --
For the second time in a week, Jermaine O'Neal
decided his team's fate in the final seconds.
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O'Neal collected 18 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks and converted a decisive three-point play with three
seconds left as the Indiana Pacers posted a 101-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
On Saturday, O'Neal drained a controversial game-winning jumper against Detroit as time expired. He came through again
Wednesday, capping his first career triple-double with the biggest play of the game.
It capped a huge quarter for O'Neal, who had 11 points and three blocks in the final 12 minutes. His 10 blocks tied a team
record and is the most by an Indiana player since the franchise joined the NBA in 1976.
"That was Bill Russell-like, David Robinson-like," Indiana coach Isiah Thomas said. "He was everything we needed tonight. He
saved us. A triple-double in points, rebounds and blocked shots, you're playing in rare air. To get 10 blocks in a game, that's like getting 50 points."
"I just wanted to swing at everything I could get at," O'Neal said. "Blocks are something I take a lot of pride in. My goal,
ultimately, is to break the all-time blocks record."
Toronto's Alvin Williams and Morris Peterson made consecutive baskets to forge a 97-97 tie with just 18 seconds remaining. Indiana ran down the clock on the next possession and Erick Strickland made a bounce pass to O'Neal, who was fouled by Jerome Williams on a dunk with 3.2 seconds left.
"I wanted to make a string move towards the bucket once Erick and I made eye contact," O'Neal said. "Antonio Davis switched over and that left me wide open. Erick made a great pass and I just wanted to make sure I made the strong move and followed it with the free throw."
"I wish I had stayed with Jermaine," Davis said. "There is nothing I can do now, I made a bad choice."
O'Neal buried the free throw and the Pacers fouled Lindsey Hunter, who made the first free throw but intentionally missed the second. Ron Artest grabbed the rebound and made 1-of-2 free throws with less than a second remaining for the final margin.
The victory helped Thomas receive the Eastern Conference coaching job for the All-Star Game as the Pacers clinched the
best possible winning percentage among teams with eligible coaches.
Strickland finished with 19 points and Reggie Miller added 16 as the Pacers improved to a league-best 18-1 at home.
Brad Miller collected 12 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, which has won 11 straight games at Conseco Fieldhouse since losing to Detroit on Nov. 23.
Voshon Lenard scored 19 points and Williams finished with 17 for the Raptors, who have lost five in a row and 21 of their last 24 games.
"I told them if we played that hard at home all the time, we would win our share of games," Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens said.
"We have three developmental league guys. That's hard."
Jerome Williams had 14 points and 14 rebounds for injury-plagued Toronto, which continue to play without Vince Carter (knee), Michael Bradley (back), Chris Jefferies (back) and Mamadou N'diaye (foot).
Antonio Davis scored six of his 14 points in the opening seven minutes of the game as the Raptors jumped out to a 19-8 lead.
Lenard scored six points in the second quarter for Toronto, which led by as many as 13 and held a 52-42 halftime advantage.
Reggie Miller scored 10 points during a 13-5 run Indiana used to open the third quarter. He capped the burst with a pair of free throws to bring the Pacers within 57-55 at the 7:39 mark.
The Pacers did not get their first lead until Brad Miller made a layup for a 66-65 edge with 1:47 left in the third.
Williams scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, which featured five ties and nine lead changes.