INDIANAPOLIS, April 2 (Ticker) --
After clinching the Central Division
and the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana
Pacers had every reason to take a game off. They did just the
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The Pacers started with a 7-0 run, never trailed and rolled to
an 84-64 victory over the reeling Toronto Raptors for their 56th
win of the season.
Indiana's bench outscored its counterparts, 33-6, and defense
again made the difference as it limited Toronto to less than 35
percent (26-of-75) from the field. It was the ninth
wire-to-wire win of the season for the Pacers.
"I thought defensively, we had another strong effort." Pacers
coach Rick Carlisle
said. "One of our challenges going into
tonight was putting together back-to-back top-notch defensive
For the fourth time this season, the Pacers held a foe to 70
points or less.
scored 21 points for the Pacers. Sixth Man Award
candidate Al Harrington
added 16 and 13 rebounds for his 12th
double-double of the season.
Toronto top scorers Vince Carter
and Jalen Rose
combined for 43
points, but the rest of the Raptors managed just 21 on 8-of-34
"I thought it was a lethargic performance. We looked like a team
that has struggled." Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill
think the players have been through a lot, both mentally and
"I'm a professional. It really hasn't been tough on me. The
people that it's tough on is the players. I'm assuming that
everyone of them thinks I'm going to be fired, based on the
articles that are being written. Not knowing my future, them
not knowing who they'll be playing for ... it really makes it
tough for them."
The Pacers have different, more pleasant issues to worry about,
like staying focused.
"It's not hard to stay focused and come out playing hard every
night," Artest said. "We can't worry about winning X number of
games. The coaches have told us to continue playing hard and
the records will take care of themselves."
With the game well in hand from the beginning, Indiana was able
to rest some of its starters. All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal
played just 18 minutes, scoring eight points.
"It's good to know I can sit out and the team can still play
like this," he said. "It's a bit frustrating. ... You always
want to play, but you have to look at the big picture. We have a
big game coming up with Detroit."
Sunday's road game against the Pistons is the stiffest remaining
test for the Pacers. It also is the first meeting between the
clubs since Detroit traded for Rasheed Wallace
"Charles Barkley said it best: The game will be like a
Hagler-Hearns fight," O'Neal said. "I think that's a good
description. I'm sure Rasheed will show up for this game and
try to send a message. This could be a statement-type game."
Toronto (30-45) fell four games behind eighth-place Boston in
the East with just seven to play.