CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 29 (Ticker) -- A day before he learns his fate in a federal court, Jermaine O'Neal made his presence felt on a court in Charlotte.

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O'Neal scored 24 points and grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds as the Indiana Pacers escaped with a 74-71 win over the Bobcats.

O'Neal's initial 25-game suspension for his involvement in the ugly brawl in Detroit in November was cut to 15 games by an arbitrator last week. He has played three games since returning -- averaging 20.3 points and 11.7 rebounds -- but may need to serve some or all of the 10 extra games if a judge rules Thursday that the arbitrator's authority is in question.

"I can guarantee this, after tomorrow, it's going to be done with," O'Neal said. "So either way we won't have to talk about this no more. It's seven weeks old.

"It's in the judge's hand. Hopefully the process will continue to happen the way it has for me and whatever the outcome is, I've got to deal with it."

For the time being, the Pacers will be happy with their center's effort and back-to-back wins for just the second time this month.

"I'm just thinking about how good it feels to win two in a row and how great it is to have Jermaine back," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's certainly no accident that that has happened. I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. This team has earned a quality win and we've gotten ourselves above .500 and we're looking forward for more opportunities to get better."

The Pacers are 8-3 with O'Neal in the lineup and 6-10 without him.

The three-time All-Star scored six points in the fourth and was involved in two big plays that helped keep the Bobcats on the short end down the stretch. He hit a turnaround baseline jumper to give Indiana a 69-67 lead with 3:38 left and assisted on Jamaal Tinsley's 3-pointer on the next possession.

"(Jermaine) looked great tonight and he made two huge plays down the stretch," Carlisle said. "Great players make big time plays when they really count. There's no substitute for having him out there tonight."

Tinsley's shot snapped a 69-69 tie and gave the Pacers the lead for good. He scored 14 points and was the only other Indiana player in double figures.

Bobcats guard Jason Hart missed a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer.

Emeka Okafor scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for his 17th straight double-double and Melvin Ely recorded his first with 14 and 11 for Charlotte.

"We played hard and we almost got this one," Okafor said. "We would have liked it to have been a little bit different at the end, but it's a learning process. They made some shots, we didn't make some shots, and that's the way it goes."

The Bobcats were just 6-of-13 from the line in losing their second in a row following five straight wins at Charlotte Coliseum.

"That's going to keep continuing to kill us, especially against good teams," Ely said. "With a team like Indiana, you really have to go out and play hard and match their intensity and hope for a couple of balls that fall your way. If we'd made our free throws, we'd be smiling instead of being (ticked) off."

Charlotte head coach Bernie Bickerstaff echoed Ely's sentiments.

"The bottom line is the game got down to the hustle things, where we didn't go after loose balls, and we didn't make free throws," Bickerstaff said. "It was that simple of a basketball game."