Pacers Welcome Artest's Return

by Conrad Brunner

Feb. 11, 2003

MATCHUPS
VS.

Jamaal
Tinsley
7.7
PG
Milt
Palacio
4.1

Reggie
Miller
13.8
SG
Darius
Miles
8.7

Ron
Artest
15.8
SF
Ricky
Davis
21.6

Jermaine
O'Neal
20.0
PF
Carlos
Boozer
8.7

Brad
Miller
13.9
C
Zydrunas
Ilgauskas
18.2

Al
Harrington
12.6
6th Man
Dajuan
Wagner
14.5
QUOTABLE
"The first game back off the break is always a dangerous game because of conditioning, timing and rhythm. Cleveland is a team we respect. They have great talent and at any time in the East anybody can jump up and beat you. There's not that much separation in terms of talent from the top to the bottom. Cleveland's a talented team. (Ricky) Davis can get it going, (Zydrunas) Ilgauskas can get it going, (Dajuan) Wagner can get it going, (Darius) Miles can get it going. When you start running off those names, you realize they do have good players and our guys respect them."

- Isiah Thomas
INSIDER SCOUTING REPORT

PACERS (34-15) vs. CLEVELAND (10-40)
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003
7 p.m., Conseco Fieldhouse
TV: FOX Sports Net
RADIO: WIBC-1070 AM
TICKETS: Click Here to Buy!

By Conrad Brunner

Such is the force of Ron Artest's personality that, even when he is absent, he has a presence. Even though he was in Orlando, FL, visiting Disney World with his family, his name wound up in a Dallas Morning News report about an alleged fight at a party during the All-Star Weekend in Atlanta.

"We just laugh at those things," said coach Isiah Thomas. "We've been saying it for quite a while now, that a lot of things that have been reported and said about him have just been totally false and exaggerated. A lot of things have been said about our team; a lot of things have been said about me. It's part of the process of trying to rise to the top. We're trying to get there. We're a good story, but we're a good story I think in a positive way, not necessarily in a negative way."

Those wondering as to Artest's whereabouts will get a definitive answer tonight, when he returns from a four-game suspension that kept him off the court 14 days. The Pacers, who went 1-3 in that span and are 3-5 overall without Artest, welcome his return as they begin the stretch run.

"I think everyone was excited to be back," said Thomas after practice Monday evening. "Everyone appears to have kept their conditioning, and we had a good, hard practice."

The defense allowed an average of 101.3 points in Artest's absence, but he said he believes that was more a case of "probably tired legs" than the team missing him.

"Hopefully, we can play the same way we played in the first half," he said, "but play better."

Artest was in Atlanta Thursday to host an event for his record label (Truwarier), but left immediately thereafter for Florida. He didn't express anger about the erroneous report, choosing instead to let this one roll off his back.

"Things are always going to pop up. I just take it how it comes. I just don't worry about it," he said. "I know things are always going to pop up as far as your name being mentioned in things. Some of them are going to be true, and some of them are not going to be true. You sort of just take it, move on and try not to worry about it.

"We saw all the (Disney) characters and my kids had fun, so I enjoyed the weekend off."

WHO'S HOT
Pacers - Ron Artest has averaged 22.5 points on 19-of-23 shooting (.826) in two games against the Cavs. ... Jeff Foster has 18 rebounds in 29 minutes in against the Cavs, and ranks second in the NBA with an average of 17.3 rebounds per 48 minutes. ... Al Harrington has averaged 15.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in the last six games. ... Brad Miller has six double-doubles in the last 10 games and in the last three has averaged 18.0 points on .563 shooting. ... Jermaine O'Neal has averaged 26.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in the last four, and has nine consecutive double-doubles. He also has averaged 4.25 blocked shots in the last eight. ... Erick Strickland has averaged 9.5 points on .562 shooting overall and .515 from the arc in the last 12.

Cavs - Ricky Davis ranks 16th in the league in scoring (21.6) and eight in steals (1.79). ... Zydrunas Ilgauskas is 16th in blocked shots (1.9). ... In the last five, Ilgauskas has averaged 20.2 points. ... Dajuan Wagner has averaged 17.3 points in 25 starts. ... Carlos Boozer has averaged 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 25 games as a starter. ... Darius Miles has averaged 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in the last four. ... Milt Palacio had a season-high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in a victory over Houston just before the All-Star break. ... DeSagana Diop broke a six-game scoreless streak with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting against the Rockets.

WHO'S NOT
Pacers - Austin Croshere has gone 8-of-30 from the field (.267) and 1-of-10 from the arc in his last six. ... Ron Mercer has averaged 6.7 points on .322 shooting in the last seven. ... Reggie Miller has gone 15-of-50 from the field (.300) and 8-of-30 from the arc (.267) in the last four. ... O'Neal has shot .397 from the field in the last four. ... Jamaal Tinsley has gone 6-of-26 from the field (.231) and 1-of-11 from the arc (.091) with 12 turnovers in the last three. ... The team has shot .376 overall and .284 from the arc in the last four. ... The defense has allowed 101.3 points in the past four, and four of the past six opponents have scored at least 100 points.

Cavs - Davis has averaged 16.4 points on .333 shooting in the last eight games, and has gone 2-of-21 from the arc in the last 10. ... Smush Parker, placed on the injured list with a sprained ankle, leads the NBA in turnovers per 48 minutes (5.7). ... The team ranks 27th in field goal percentage (.414), 28th in turnovers (18.0) and 29th in points allowed (100.8).

KEY MATCHUP
Small forward - Ricky Davis is probably in for a long night. Under normal circumstances, Davis has struggled against Ron Artest, totaling 19 points in two games and lasting just six minutes on Nov. 12 before getting benched for the rest of the night. With Artest coming back from a four-game suspension, his energy level and focus will be high.

INJURIES
Pacers - G Jamaal Tinsley (R wrist) is probable; F Jonathan Bender (L calf) and G Jamison Brewer (groin) are on the injured list.
Cavs - G Smush Parker (R ankle) and G Bimbo Coles (L thigh) are on the injured list.