O'Neal Singes Nets for 30 as Pacers Take Opener

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

April 20, 2002


The dominant force in the game, O’Neal scored 30 points and pulled 11 rebounds, making 13 of 24 shots. He scored 24 in the first half on 11-of-16 shooting, forcing the Nets to scrap their defensive gameplan.

His presence alongside O’Neal up front gave the Pacers a post tandem the Nets couldn’t find a way to match. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, making 6-of-8 shots, with seven points coming in the fourth period.

"This series is far from over. We’ve only done half of what we came here to do.”

The team that wins the opening game has gone on to win 83 percent of all best-of-five first-round series. One of the exceptions was last year, when the Pacers took Game 1 in Philadelphia, then lost the next three.

Points in the paint: Nets 42, Pacers 26 42

Fast-break points: Nets 15, Pacers 6
Starters scoring: Pacers 85, Nets 67
Bench scoring: Nets 16, Pacers 4



April 20, 2002
Continental Airlines Arena


Typically, when an underdog goes on the road and wins in the playoffs, it’s commonly referred to as “stealing a game.” In this instance, the eighth-seeded Pacers played like they owned it from the beginning, getting 30 points from Jermaine O’Neal and strong complementary performances from several others in knocking off top-seeded New Jersey 89-83 in Game 1 of the first-round series on Saturday in Continental Airlines Arena.


For the Nets, six months of hard work was undone in one afternoon as they lost their hard-earned homecourt advantage quickly. With a 1-0 lead, the Pacers can now win the series by protecting their home floor. They failed to do so last year, however, losing three in a row to the Sixers after winning the opener in Philadelphia.


The teams meet in Game 2 on Monday at 6 p.m. (Central) in Continental Airlines Arena.


Key plays came from every direction. Jamaal Tinsley helped quell an early fourth-quarter uprising with three consecutive buckets; Reggie Miller converted a three-point play in the closing minutes put the Pacers up 83-79 that seemed to take the steam from the home team’s rally; Ron Artest had three steals that led to baskets in a 6-2 counterpunch after the Nets had taken a 75-74 lead; and Brad Miller hit four free throws in the final seconds. Notice the absence of O’Neal’s name from the list. After he scored 24 points in the first half, the Nets sent their entire defense at him in the second, limiting his opportunities but creating openings for his teammates, who took full advantage.


O’Neal’s postseason career-high 30 points led the way, and he added 11 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Brad Miller had 18 points and 12 rebounds, hitting 6-of-8 from the field. Reggie Miller scored 17 despite not shooting particularly well (6-of-16). Ron Artest had 12 points, six rebounds and four steals. The Pacers outrebounded the Nets 41-39 and forced as many turnovers as they committed (17). The Nets were led by Jason Kidd’s near-triple-double of 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Though he was 11-of-23 from the field, he missed eight of his last 10 shots. Margin scored 15 with 13 rebounds but committed five turnovers. Van Horn was the only other player in double figures with 10, but he was 4-of-13 from the floor.


The mismatches all favored the Pacers. The Nets opened the game with Kenyon Martin matched up against O’Neal, defensively, but the 6-9 forward simply lacked the size and strength to contend with him in the post. At the other end, O’Neal’s length disrupted Martin’s offensive rhythm as he got off to a poor start, missing his first four shots, and never fully recovered. Van Horn, who averaged nearly 19 points against the Pacers during the regular season, was defended tightly by Artest and also had little impact on the game. The Pacers had early foul trouble to both Brad Miller and Tinsley to contend with, and O’Neal picked up his fourth foul on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Though the Nets had a brief surge to take their first lead, 71-69, while O’Neal was on the bench, he and Reggie Miller returned midway through the period and the Pacers regained control of the flow.


After taking a 10-point halftime lead, the Pacers were immediately dealt a blow when Tinsley went down with a mild sprain of his right knee on the first possession of the third period. Carried off the floor by Jeff Foster and Austin Croshere, Tinsley was treated in the locker room and returned for the start of the fourth quarter. Scoreless before the injury, he hit three quick baskets upon his return and scored eight in the period.

NBC’s lead announcing team of Marv Albert and Mike Fratello was knocked out of action by a limo accident in New Jersey early Thursday morning when they were returning home from working the Pacers-Philadelphia game for TNT. In their places were Bob Costas and Mike Dunleavy, the former Portland coach who drew post-trade criticism from O’Neal for his lack of playing time while with the Blazers.

Bad weather in New York delayed the departure of the Pacers’ charter jet from Indianapolis on Friday roughly four hours. They did not arrive in their Manhattan hotel until after 9 p.m.