O'Neal, Artest the Difference as Pacers Stop Pistons, 89-84

by Conrad Brunner

March 10, 2002

STAR OF THE GAME

JERMAINE O’NEAL
He didn’t play in the first two games against the Pistons, both close losses, and O'Neal showed what was missed, scoring 23 points, pulling 14 rebounds and blocking three shots to carry the team inside. Though he was 0-for-9 from the field in the second half, O’Neal hit 7-of-8 free throws to defeat Detroit’s physical defensive attack.
UNSUNG HERO

RON ARTEST
Adding to his string of strong defensive performances against premier scorers, Artest shut down Jerry Stackhouse, holding Detroit’s offensive centerpiece to just seven points on 2-of-14 shooting. Artest, who had four steals also held up his share on the offensive end, scoring 16 points.
QUOTEBOOK

RON ARTEST
"I tried to play (Stackhouse) the same way I play guys like T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) and Mike (Jordan) – harass ‘em, stay on ‘em like white on rice, really move my feet and think out the defensive part of the game.”
STAT OF THE GAME
In recent matchups against three of the league’s most prolific scorers, Artest has demonstrated his defensive prowess. Orlando’s McGrady, Sacramento’s Peja Stojakovic and Stackhouse combined to score 36 points (12.0) on 14-of-53 shooting (.264), including 2-of-17 (.118) from the arc.
HIDDEN NUMBERS
Points in the paint: Pistons 44, Pacers 22
Fast-break points: Pistons 14, Pacers 9
Starters scoring: Pacers 69, Pistons 47
Bench scoring: Pistons 37, Pacers 20
89
84
March 10, 2002
The Palace of Auburn Hills
END RESULT
What a difference Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest make. Both missed the first two matchups against the Pistons – O’Neal with injuries, Artest still with Chicago – but made their presence felt in an 89-84 victory in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. O’Neal led the offensive with 23 points, while Artest harassed Detroit’s Jerry Stackhouse into a 2-of-14 shooting game to spearhead a strong defensive effort.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Pacers snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 31-32 overall, remaining in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. As things currently stand, their first-round opponent would be Detroit. The Pistons lost their second game in a row – the first time that’s happened since early January – and dropped to 35-26 overall, one-half game ahead of Milwaukee atop the Central Division.

UP NEXT
Having played seven of the last eight games on the road, the Pacers return home to face Golden State on Tuesday night.

TURNING POINT
Detroit put together its most spirited run of the game, a 10-2 burst bridging the third and fourth periods, to take its only lead, 71-70, on a dunk by Ben Wallace with 9:43 remaining. But the Pacers scored the next eight points to rebuild a 78-71 advantage and the defense took over from there, holding the Pistons to 5-of-21 shooting the rest of the period while making 12-of-14 free throws to keep the home team at bay.

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
The Pacers shot .431, had more turnovers (16) than assists (14) and were outrebounded 44-42, but outscored the Pistons 25-13 at the line. O’Neal led the way with 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, Artest scored 16 and had four steals. Jamaal Tinsley scored 15 but contributed just four assists in 40 minutes. Brad Miller had 10 points and five rebounds. Detroit shot .379 overall, 15-of-49 (.306) in the first and fourth periods. Corliss Williamson came off the bench to score 22 on 10-of-16 shooting. Chucky Atkins scored 15 but had just one assist. Michael Curry had a season-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Jon Barry scored 13. Wallace had 17 rebounds and eight blocked shots but missed three free throws in the final minute that would’ve helped the Pistons’ cause.

STRATEGY/PERSONNEL
If this was indeed a playoff preview, the Pacers have to like the matchups. With Artest defending Stackhouse, that left Reggie Miller against Curry, who is not much of an offensive threat. The undersized Detroit front line struggled badly against O’Neal, Brad Miller and Jeff Foster. Detroit coach Rick Carlisle curiously started Cliff Robinson against O’Neal and the veteran had no chance. He picked up three quick fouls and was a non-factor the rest of the game, producing four points in 23 minutes. The Pistons’ toughest matchups come off the bench in the forms of Williamson, an undersized power player, and guard Jon Barry and Damon Jones, both energetic and explosive from all over the floor. But the Pacers have a strong bench of their own. Foster had a strong, aggressive game with eight points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Though neither Austin Croshere nor Jonathan Bender found any offensive rhythm, both are threats that warrant defensive attention. And Kevin Ollie played his usual solid game in relief of Tinsley.

NOTEWORTHY
Ron Mercer sat out his second game in a row, still recovering from a sprained right knee ligament. ... Of the Pacers’ final 19 games, just six are against teams that currently have winning records, and 11 are at home. ... The game was combative early, with first-half technical fouls being assessed to the Pistons’ Barry and Wallace, and the Pacers’ Artest, but settled down thereafter. ... Stackhouse didn’t score until making a pair of free throws with 3:19 left in the second quarter. ... Robinson didn’t score until a drive with 11:19 left in the third period. ... Combined, the Pistons’ two leading scorers produced 11 points on 4-of-25 shooting. ... Reggie Miller continued to struggle, going 2-of-8 from the floor and 0-of-5 from the arc. In four games since returning from his suspension, Miller has averaged 8.8 points. ... O’Neal produced his eighth consecutive double-double.