O'Neal's Status Clouds Pacers' Matchup with Mavs

by Conrad Brunner

February 5, 2002

TONIGHT'S MATCHUP

HEAD-TO-HEAD
25-24 RECORD 33-14
L-1 STREAK L-1
4-6 LAST 10 8-2
96.1 PF 104.0
96.5 PA 100.3
.447 OFF. FG PCT. .458
.436 DEF. FG PCT. .452
By Conrad Brunner


Pacers (25-24) vs. Dallas (33-14)
Tuesday, February 5, 2002 8 p.m.
Conseco Fieldhouse
TV: Fox Sports Net
RADIO: WIBC-1070 AM

SCOUTING REPORT
Everyone wants to talk trade this time of year, but Jamaal Tinsley for Jermaine O'Neal is not what the Pacers had in mind. Tinsley, who missed one game and came off the bench in two more while resting a strained left hip and groin, is expected to be back in the starting lineup tonight. O'Neal, however, may be unable to play because of a sprained left ankle suffered in Washington on Sunday, his third injury of the season. He missed four games in November with a bruised lower back and three in January with a hyperextended left knee, and the Pacers went 1-6 in the games he missed. The good news is that it's the last game before the All-Star break, giving the players six days to clear their heads and heal their bodies. The bad news is that both Tinsley and O'Neal are scheduled to play in Philadelphia - Tinsley in the Rookie game on Saturday and O'Neal his first All-Star appearance on Sunday. Both are now reconsidering their travel plans.

The absence of the team's lone low-post threat would only exacerbate the problems for an offense that has become reliant on the 3-point shot recently. In the last nine games, the Pacers have failed to break 95 points, averaging 89.8 in that span. They've also averaged nearly as many 3-point attempts (19.0, five above the season average) as free throws (20.0, four below the season average). Dallas has averaged 106.9 points while going 21-5 in the last 26 games - the best such stretch in franchise history. The Mavs have also give up plenty of points (100.3, 28th in the league). They bring a five-game road winning streak and 15-7 road record - the NBA's best - into the game. The Pacers played them well most of the way in the previous meeting, leading 65-50 midway through the third period and 79-72 entering the fourth, but Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki combined for 26 of the Mavs' 39 points in the fourth-quarter as they rallied for a 111-102 home victory.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Miller

Finley
J. Tinsley
9.2
PG S. Nash
19.7
R. Miller
16.7
SG M. Finley
19.4
J. Rose
18.3
SF A. Griffin
7.3
J. Bender
6.3
PF J. Howard
12.6
J. O'Neal
18.1
C D. Nowitzki
24.1
T. Best
6.3
6th MAN T. Hardaway
9.3
QUOTABLE
"The (All-Star) break's coming at a great time. We need healthy bodies and healthy minds. Physically, we're worn down and mentally we could use some rest, also."

- Coach Isiah Thomas
WHO'S HOT
Jermaine O'Neal has averaged 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.83 blocked shots and .511 shooting in the last six games since returning from a hyperextended left knee. ... Jalen Rose has averaged 21.3 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting .512 overall and .471 from the 3-point arc in the last 13 games. ... Travis Best has averaged 11.0 points, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting .556 in the last three games, all starts. ... Jonathan Bender has averaged 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting .493 in eight consecutive starts. ... Jeff Foster has averaged 24.0 minutes, 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in six consecutive games off the bench. ... Mavs power forward Juwan Howard has averaged 19.2 points and 11.2 rebounds in the last seven games. ... Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 27.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in the last 10. ... The Mavs have committed a total of 12 turnovers in the last two games.

WHO'S NOT
Reggie Miller has shot .283 from the arc and .384 overall in the last eight games. ... Dallas' Michael Finely has averaged 12.0 points on .432 shooting in three games since returning from the injured list. ... The Mavs have shot just .405 as a team in the last two games.

KEY MATCHUP
Shooting Guard - Finley is an explosive scorer who hasn't found his touch in three games since returning from the injured list, and the Mavs have lost twice, leading to discussion about team chemistry and the possibility of having too many scorers on the floor with the first unit. Dallas was 12-1 while Finley was out with a groin injury, but 21-13 with him in the lineup. With injuries to younger players piling up, the Pacers need Miller to turn back the clock and increase his share of the scoring load.

INJURIES
Pacers - F Jermaine O'Neal (sprained L ankle), G Jamaal Tinsley (sore L hip) and F Carlos Rogers (bruised L shoulder) are day-to-day; F Al Harrington (R knee surgery) and G Jamison Brewer (strained R groin) are on the injured list.
Mavericks - F Eduardo Najera (sore L knee) is questionable; F Donnell Harvey (sprained L ankle) is out; G Greg Buckner (L calf strain), G Charlie Bell (sprained R ankle) and C Evan Eschmeyer (sprained L ankle) are on the injured list.