Battled through a tough first half and finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and three steals in a solid overall performance.
"It was a really tough game, a low-scoring grinding game. … We were able to be solid. We wanted to get the ball inside to Al (Harrington) and he delivered a lot tonight. We knew we needed Al to have a big game and get four or five guys in double figures. Our guys played hard tonight. It’s a struggle at times but our intentions are good."
Points in the Paint:
Pacers 36, Rockets 20
Fast-break points:
Pacers 14, Rockets 5
2nd-chance points:
Pacers 13, Rockets 11
Points off turnovers:
Rockets 20, Pacers 18
Starters scoring:
Rockets 60, Pacers 54
Bench scoring:
Pacers 27, Rockets 16
Combining the second half of Saturday's 78-71 loss to Minnesota and the first half of tonight's game, the Pacers shot 22-of-88 from the field (.250) in a span of four consecutive quarters.
Chauncey Billups and the Detroit Pistons await the Pacers Friday night in The Palace of Auburn Hills (8:00, FSN-Indiana).
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    Pacers Grind Out Needed Victory

    By Conrad Brunner | Dec. 26, 2006

    Tracy McGrady returned. Jermaine O'Neal did not. What appeared to be a favorable matchup quickly changed personalities for the Pacers, who were thrust into a grinder. But thanks to active rebounding, solid defense and timely scoring, Indiana fought past Houston 81-76 Tuesday in Conseco Fieldhouse.

    The Pacers built a nine-point fourth-quarter lead but had to hold on, outscoring Houston 8-3 in the final 2 minutes as free throws by Danny Granger and Darrell Armstrong in the closing 20 seconds shut the door.

    Indiana snapped a two-game home losing streak to improve to 16-14 overall, 9-4 at home. The Rockets (16-12), playing without injured center Yao Ming, lost to an Eastern Conference team for just the second time in 11 meetings.


    This was an effort game and those often don't produce much in the way of glaring individual numbers. Harrington missed 13 of his first 17 shots but made six of his last seven to finish with a 23-point, 14-rebound double-double. Jeff Foster was a monster on the boards with 16 rebounds, adding three assists, two steals and two blocks. Jamaal Tinsley scored 17 with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Granger scored 13 with six rebounds off the bench. The Pacers' defense limited the Rockets to 36 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers (13 on steals) and Indiana won the rebound battle 51-48. Tracy McGrady's first game back after missing seven with back spasms probably wasn't what he had in mind. Though he scored 19, he was 7-of-22 from the field and was harassed into seven turnovers.
    The Pacers shot very poorly for the second game in a row, finishing at .349, and were 3-of-20 from the 3-point line. They had more turnovers (18) than assists (14) and Tinsley and Harrington had five miscues apiece.
    The teams traded runs throughout the game. The Pacers scored 14 in a row in the first quarter for an 18-11 lead but the Rockets finished the period 11-2 and led 24-22. Houston built a 37-32 lead midway through the second as McGrady heated up, scoring eight points in a 13-4 run but the Pacers bridged intermission with an 11-2 burst to take a 43-39 lead. The Rockets went 13-2, then the Pacers answered 9-2 and the score was tied at 54-all midway through the third as Harrington heated up for eight points in the quarter.

    The Pacers appeared to seize the momentum once and for all with a 13-0 run sparked by reserves Maceo Baston, Danny Granger and Sarunas Jasikevicius that made it 67-58 with 8:46 left. But the Rockets, who had missed eight shots in a row as the Pacers built their nine-point lead, found the range and pounded out a 15-6 run to tie it at 73-all on Bonzi Wells' 3-point play with 2:16 remianing.

    Free throws from Foster and Granger sandwiching a Harrington post-up pushed the Pacers to a 78-73 lead with 20 seconds left by Rafer Alston hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game. Darrell Armstrong missed one of two free throws with 16 seconds left, giving Houston a chance to tie with a 3-pointer but Luther Head – who clearly double-dribbled while winding his way outside the arc – missed an off-balance bomb and Armstrong won the battle for the rebound with one-tenth of a second remaining. He finished off the scoring at the line.

  • O'Neal missed the morning shootaround with flu-like symptoms and arrived at the arena in time for the game but was too weak to play. He was placed on the inactive list.
  • Rookie forward Shawne Williams picked up his first career start in O'Neal's place but was scoreless with two rebounds in 11 minutes.
  • With Yao Ming out six weeks with a broken bone in his leg, the Rockets turned to journeyman Dikembe Mutombo at center and he produced just four points, five rebounds and two blocks.
  • Rawle Marshall and David Harrison (sprained left shoulder) joined O'Neal on the inactive list.
  • Yao, Kirk Snyder and Bob Sura were inactive for the Rockets.