By Bobby Ciatti | Minneapolis, July 15, 2005
After trailing for all of the first three quarters, the Houston Rockets took their first lead of the game on Lonny Baxter’s short jump hook with 1:10 left in the the fourth quarter. Houston’s fourth-quarter explosion for 32 points spoiled Indiana forward Ron Artest’s return to competitive play as the Rockets were victorious 72-64 over the Pacers in the Minnesota Summer League Friday in Target Center.
Artest started strong for the Pacers, scoring 11 of their first 18 points. Artest showed his offensive versatility by knocking down long jumpers and driving to the basket. Still showing some rust after his layoff, Artest committed sloppy turnovers in the second quarter and led the Pacers with five turnovers. Artest energized the crowd in the fourth quarter with a backcourt steal and an open dunk, which brought some of the fans to their feet.
"Ron played well," said assistant Dan Burke. "He played within the team framework and played hard. He made good decisions and tried to play the right way."
The Pacers controlled the game for most of the first three quarters, in large part to the play of center David Harrison in the middle. After Harrison’s emphatic dunk with 2 minutes left in the game gave the Pacers a 63-58 lead, it looked like Indiana would coast to victory, but Harrison was called for a technical foul on the play.
"David Harrison played hard," said Burke, "but he's got to learn to play without fouling."
Houston’s free throw shooting in the last 2 minutes was the difference as they paraded to the line. Houston scored their last eight points of the game at the line, while Indiana’s offense faltered late. After Artest missed a wild runner with 22 seconds left, Houston’s Pat Carroll hit two free throws to make it 68-64. Another Indiana miss led to Harrison committing his seventh personal foul. Since there is no fouling out in summer league games, Harrison’s seventh personal foul resulted in a technical foul and more free throws.
Jonathan Bender, who missed most of the last two seasons with knee injuries, made the first of two scheduled summer-league appearances and scored eight points in 26 minutes, but was 2-of-8 from the field.
"He looks like he hasn't been practicing with us," said Burke. "But he played freely and looks like he feels good. And he said he had no pain when the game was over."
Indiana will have a chance at redemption tomorrow afternoon when the play the Toronto Raptors at 3 p.m..
Bobby Ciatti is a special correspondent for Pacers.com.