INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 25 (Ticker) --
Despite Jermaine O'Neal's return to the Indiana Pacers' lineup, the
Detroit Pistons posted a 98-93 victory on Christmas Day.
scored half of his 16 points in the fourth
quarter, including a 3-point dagger that gave Detroit an 89-80
lead with 1:29 remaining. Wallace also hit a free throw with 16
seconds remaining that made it a three-possession game.
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Wallace and Richard Hamilton
, who scored 25 points to lead four
Pistons in double figures, upstaged the return of O'Neal, who
was cleared to play in this one earlier in the week after an
arbitrator cut 10 games off his initial 25-game suspension
for his involvement in the incident at the Palace of Auburn Hills
on November 19.
"We had a lot of guys play well," Pistons coach Larry Brown
said. "Our bench was really solid, though we didn't shoot that
well. I'm just glad we won. I'm glad it's over. Now we can
all go enjoy our Christmas and be with our families."
In this one, fans made their presence felt with thunderous
ovations for O'Neal and Reggie Miller
, who scored 24 points,
along with constant boos for the Pistons, especially Ben Wallace
, the first several times they handled the ball in each
"I love this state, it has great basketball fans," O'Neal said.
"I didn't start to feel comfortable until the second half. I
wanted to be out there and I wanted the ball, I just couldn't
get into a rhythm. The fans helped. ... The way they appladued
me was unbelievable."
"I thought the crowd was great," said Brown, who coached the
Pacers for four seasons beginning in 1993-94. "Indiana fans are
great fans, and our players came to play basketball ... no
problems. Now I hope we can just put this stuff behind us."
O'Neal was rusty early, missing six of his first seven shots and
his first two free throws. He improved as the game wore on and
finished with 21 points on 7-of-19 shooting to go with seven
rebounds and five blocks, including two on Ben Wallace.
"Jermaine needs some time to get back into the offense," Miller
Miller led all scorers with 14 points in the first half, but the
Pacers trailed, 46-45, at the break. He banked in a short
jumper with 8:06 left in the third quarter to cap an 8-0 run and
give Indiana a 55-53 lead, but it was the last time the Pacers
held an advantage.
hit a long dumper to give the Pistons a 69-61
lead after three quarters, and Detroit remained in control with
smothering defense and dominance on the offensive boards over
the final 12 minutes.
"We were a little stagnant tonight ... but that's not what lost
the game," Miller said. "They outhustled us, beat us to loose
balls, got big rebounds ... they did all of the little things.
The game was overhyped and we didn't bring our maximum effort."
After Detroit build its largest lead of the game at 92-82 with
57 seconds left, back-to-back 3-pointers by Fred Jones
Miller within a five-second span brought the Pacers to within
92-88 with 40 seconds to go. But Detroit made 6-of-8 free
throws the rest of the way to seal the victory.
Ben Wallace was
held to six points but grabbed 11 rebounds as the Pistons held
a 49-39 advantage on the glass. He and Rasheed Wallace combined
for 11 offensive rebounds -- one more than the entire Pacers
"I thought we played a good first quarter, but after that they
really dominated the game, especially on the boards" Pacers
coach Rick Carlisle
said. "You keep giving a good team second
chances and they are going to put the ball in the basket
eventually. There were some plays where they simply outworked
us, and that can't happen against better teams."
hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points for
Detroit, which won for just the second time in the last seven
regular-season meetings with Indiana. They also improved to
6-16 on Christmas.
recorded his sixth straight double-double with 10
points and 16 rebounds for the Pacers, who have gone 5-11 since
the November. At 12-13, they are under .500 for the
first time since being 39-40 during the 2001-02 season.
Indiana will have O'Neal in uniform the next two games before a
December 30 hearing, which will determine whether he will have
to serve the balance of his initial suspension.
"Hopefully Monday (against New Orleans) we can get a rhythm
going and get back on track," O'Neal said. "I can't imagine
missing another 10 games ... I just don't think about it. I
know I have support, from Indiana to South Carolina.
"Now it's my job to get this team back above .500."