INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 9 (Ticker) --
The Indiana Pacers came out quickly,
which helped when they struggled late.
scored nine of his 29 points and Stephen Jackson
had eight of his 22 in the first quarter as the Pacers posted a
94-87 triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Indiana opened by scoring 13 of the first 15 points and never
was headed. O'Neal had four points in the spurt, which Jeff Foster
capped with a dunk 4:14 into the game.
O'Neal was 4-of-6 from the field and Jackson 3-of-5 with a pair
of steals in the first 12 minutes.
"It's important for us to start games like that ... to not give
other teams the confidence to stay with us," O'Neal said. "We're
going to be in a dog fight every night, so we need to be the
team that comes out and throws the first punch."
The Pacers kept the pressure on in the second quarter, building
their lead to 22 points late in the first half. O'Neal had 15
and Jackson 14 as Indiana led, 54-36, at the break.
"The best thing about tonight was that I played well and we
won," Jackson said. "It feels great. My role is to try to be
aggressive early and get in my groove.
"I know as long as Jermaine is here, I'm the second option, but
when there's two of us going, we're tough to stop. Jermaine is
an All-Star every day and that's big for us. I feel like I'm
playing with (San Antonio center) Tim Duncan all over again."
The Bobcats, who fell to 0-16 on the road against Eastern
Conference opponents, battled back within six points late in
the third quarter. Charlotte closed to 90-83 with 2:03 to go
but rushed shots and wasted too much time running its offense.
scored 12 points off the bench for Indiana, which
swept the season series from Charlotte, winning all three games
by a total of 15 points.
had 20 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for the
expansion Bobcats, who fell to 10-36 overall.
"We told this team at halftime, no matter what the final outcome
is, make sure that you are comfortable with your effort
tonight," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "We asked
them to give two extra steps of effort in everything they did.
That gets you loose balls and layups and they did that in the
second half. I love our guys because they compete every night.
That's a special group."
Ely continues to do a stellar job filling in for rookie Emeka Okafor
. In five games since Okafor went down, Ely is averaging
"My coaches have always told me to be patient and they would get
me some opportunities," Ely said. "Now I've got one (with
Okafor out) and I want to show them that they can trust me.
This is an audition for me. I feel like I accomplished
something tonight by being able to play O'Neal just about even."