No Miller, No Problem: O'Neal Sparks Big Win

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

March 3, 2002


Breaking out of a slump that had seen him shoot .376 from the field in five games since the trade with Chicago, O'Neal re-asserted himself as the team's go-to scorer inside and took over down the stretch, scoring 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and making six of seven shots.

Coming up with his second strong performance in a row, Croshere scored 19 points in 29 minutes, making all 10 of his free throw attempts, to give the Pacers a much-needed lift of a bench depleted initially by Reggie Miller's absence, and further by first-half foul trouble to four starters.

"We've been through a lot this year, with obstacles on top of obstacles. This morning when we heard Reggie couldn't play, that was another blow. But we came out to win this game not only for ourselves, but for Reggie as well."

Second in the NBA in scoring (104.3), and sixth in field goal percentage (.461), the Kings produced their third-lowest point total (86) and lowest field goal percentage (.349) of the season. The NBA's top rebounding team (45.3) also was outrebounded by 12.

Points off turnovers: Kings 18, Pacers 15
Points in the paint: Pacers 28, Kings 26
Second-chance points: Kings 13, Pacers 9
Fast-break points: Pacers 13, Kings 11 6
Starters scoring: Pacers 73, Kings 62
Bench scoring: Pacers 24, Kings 24

March 3, 2002
ARCO Arena

The Pacers were without one of their primary scorers and veteran leaders. So were the Sacramento Kings. But at least Reggie Miller had an excuse - he was serving the first of a two-game suspension. Chris Webber was on the floor but was thoroughly dominated by Jermaine O'Neal, who scored 29 points, 12 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Pacers to their fifth straight victory over the Kings, 97-86, on Sunday evening.


The improbable victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Pacers, gave them a split of the four-game road trip and raised their overall record to 29-30. The Kings, who dropped to 42-16 overall, were beaten for just the third time in 32 home games. They have struggled of late, however, splitting their last 12 overall.


Without Miller for one more game, the Pacers return home to face Eastern Conference rival Orlando on Tuesday at 8 p.m.


After trailing much of the game, Sacramento appeared to be seizing momentum when Scott Pollard completed a three-point play to put the home team's lead at 74-70 with 8:57 remaining. But with Austin Croshere and O'Neal providing the offense, the Pacers put a stranglehold on the Kings, outscoring them 21-7 over the next 7:50 to build a 91-81 lead with 1:06 remaining. The Kings were 6-of-20 from the floor in the fourth period.


O'Neal was brilliant, racking up 29 points on 13 of 24 shooting, pulling 11 rebounds and blocking two shots. But there was plenty of help, some unexpected. Croshere, once again seizing the opportunity when given the chance for extended playing time, scored 19 points in 29 minutes - 10 at the free-throw line. Jonathan Bender had 16 points and nine rebounds. Brad Miller had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Ron Artest scored 11 while playing tough defense on Peja Stojakovic. Kevin Ollie didn't make a field goal but contributed nine assists, eight rebounds and two steals in relief of Jamaal Tinsley, who picked up his fifth foul late in the third period and went to the bench. The Pacers outrebounded the NBA leader in that category 57-45 and overcame 24 turnovers - a large portion of which came on unusually numerous offensive foul calls. The Kings were held to a season-low .349 shooting and produced their third-lowest score of the year. Webber was horrendous, going 2-of-16 from the floor. His only two baskets were jumpers, and one of those was a trey. He also missed 6 of 14 free throws and finished with an inconsequential 13 points. Mike Bibby scored 19 but the point guard had just two assists in 31 minutes. Stojakovic scored 18 but was hounded into 7-of-18 shooting. Hedo Turkoglu had 14 off the bench and Vlade Divac had 12 points and 14 rebounds.


Artest started at shooting guard, and Croshere moved into the sixth-man role off the bench, and both players came up big. Artest's aggression rubbed off on his teammates, who attacked the Kings early to announce their presence. Sacramento may have been expecting an easy time of it with the Pacers playing shorthanded and concluding a week-long road trip, but it was the Kings that played with little energy or enthusiasm. The Pacers rode the scoring of O'Neal and Bender, who scored 12 in the first half, to a 46-38 lead late in the second quarter, and were up 56-51 early in the third before the Kings started to come around. Their only significant run of the game, 11-3, gave the Kings a 62-59 lead, but the Pacers kept coming. As the Pacers kept pounding the ball inside on offense, they used their size and bulk to discourage Sacramento's interior offense. A quick-shooting team, the Kings stayed on the perimeter and couldn't find the range. Perhaps the biggest strategic moment of the game came when Webber picked up his fifth foul midway through the fourth period, which brought Scott Pollard off the bench to defend O'Neal - and it proved a mismatch as O'Neal immediately scored eight points in a brief span to push the Pacers into the lead for good.


The first half was a foul-fest, as eight players - including five Pacers - went into the break with three fouls. Six offensive fouls (and 20 overall) were called in the second period alone. As it turned out, not a single player fouled out of the game. ... This was just the fourth road victory over an opponent with a winning record for the Pacers, who became the first Eastern Conference team to win on the Kings' home floor this season. ... The Pacers have outrebounded four of their last five opponents. ... The Kings enjoyed their 114th consecutive home sellout. ... In Sacramento's last six losses, Stojakovic has shot .389 (35 of 90) overall and .188 (6 of 32) from the arc. ... The Kings actually had a better winning percentage in the 20 games Webber missed with an ankle injury (15-5, .750) than they have in games he has played (27-11, .711).