O’Neal Lifts Pacers Past Trail Blazers
Indiana 98, Portland 78
PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 2 (Ticker) -- The Indiana Pacers taught the Portland Trail Blazers a lesson about the importance of starting a quarter well.
Jermaine O'Neal collected 27 points and 15 rebounds as the Pacers posted an 98-78 victory over the youthful Trail Blazers.
However, the Pacers took the lead for good with a 16-2 run to start the second period, capped by O'Neal's 18-foot jumper at the 7:15 mark. Anthony Johnson and Fred Jones scored five points apiece in the surge.
"Jermaine was great tonight, obviously," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "But A.J. and Fred were very important in this win. I think the key for us was our defense in the second and third quarters, and we only had 13 turnovers. That puts you in a better position and increases your chances to get possessions."
O'Neal had 17 points and eight rebounds in the first half as the Pacers extended their lead to 50-38. Overall, the former Blazer made 9-of-19 shots and 9-of-11 free throws en route to his eighth double-double.
"It's been proven for us time and time again, when we play good defense it sets up good offense," O'Neal said. "Tonight was all about us getting back on a winning streak. Not losing two in a row. We are too good to lose back-to-back games. We had to respond and respond in a major way."
The Pacers used a 17-6 run to open the third quarter and put the game out of reach. Rookie Sarunas Jasikevicius' 3-pointer with 5:41 left provided a 67-44 bulge.
Starting at point guard in place of Jamaal Tinsley (groin), Jasikevicius scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 29 minutes.
"With Jamaal out, it gave our bench guys a chance to step up," Carlisle said. "Depth is the key to having a successful team and our bench guys were good tonight. Anthony Johnson was great for us in his decision-making and his ability to get everyone involved tonight."
"Anytime you get the opportunity to play extended minutes, you got to try and take advantadge of it," Johnson said. "I was lucky enough to be in there at some opportune times and it just worked out for me tonight."
Ron Artest added 12 points, Jones 11 and Johnson 10 for the Pacers, who shot 48 percent (36-of-75) and held a 47-34 rebounding advantage in improving to 3-1 on their five-game road trip.
Rookie Jarrett Jack scored 15 points to lead the Blazers, who were returning home following a 2-5 road trip
"We were so flat," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "It looked like we were jet-lagged and there was no scrap to us. They were just better tonight."
Zach Randolph, who matched up against O'Neal at times, finished with 12 points and just two rebounds.
"It was just a tough game for all of us tonight," Randolph said. "Nobody could get it going for us."
"I think we have a good enough team defensively where we can lock down on someone before they get in that zone," O'Neal added. "Because in this league, you know what can happen once a good player gets in his zone."
Portland, which trailed by double digits the entire second half, shot 40 percent (31-of-77) and made just 15-of-26 free throws.
"We have to find energy from within and tonight we just didn't have it at all," said Blazers center Joel Przybilla, who fought foul trouble all night trying to guard O'Neal.