Knee injury likely will sideline Pacers' Stojakovic

Updated: May 1, 2006, 7:25 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana forward Peja Stojakovic likely will miss Game 5 of the Pacers' series against New Jersey on Tuesday with a right knee injury.

"Probably I won't be available," Stojakovic said after Monday's practice. "My knee is still hurting. Hopefully we can get it better."

The timing couldn't be worse for the Pacers, as Jermaine O'Neal also missed most of Monday's workout after becoming ill. The series with the Nets is tied 2-2 and Indiana needs a win to regain homecourt advantage.

"Every injury is difficult," Stojakovic said. "It came at a bad moment, the most important. I just have to deal with that and hopefully, I'll get better soon."

Stojakovic, the Pacers' second-leading scorer in the regular season, is averaging 11 points in the playoffs. But Indiana is 2-0 in the games he has played and 0-2 when he's been out.

Point guard Anthony Johnson knows the difference without the team's top perimeter shooter.

"He gives us another offensive weapon, and at the same time, he spaces the court to where they can't sag and double-team J.O. [O'Neal] too much," Johnson said. "You don't want to leave Peja wide open, so he definitely gives us an added offensive weapon. He's a guy we can go to and he can make tough shots. He gives us a lot."

The Pacers shot 47 percent in Game 1, a 90-88 win at New Jersey. Without Stojakovic for Game 2, Indiana shot 35 percent in a 90-75 loss.

Stojakovic scored 10 points in the Pacers' 107-95 win in Game 3, but Indiana shot 44 percent without him in a 97-88 Game 4 loss on Saturday.

Stojakovic had injury problems in Sacramento before the Pacers picked him up in January's trade for Ron Artest. He missed nine games with the Kings with a list of injuries including a protruding disc in his lower back, a sprained right pinkie finger and a strained groin. He also missed 16 games two seasons ago.

None of those things raised red flags about Stojakovic's durability before the trade.

"He had a clean bill of health when the trade was made and all his past situations were checked out," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "The one thing he had trouble with was his back, but he hasn't missed any practice time, and that's a totally isolated, different situation."

Danny Granger or Fred Jones likely will start if Stojakovic can't play Tuesday. Granger, who started Game 2, said there were other problems in Game 4 besides missing Stojakovic.

"I'm sure we played better with Peja, but to play without him, we still had a chance to win [Game 4]," Granger said. "It's not just because he didn't play, though he would have helped a lot. We didn't execute, we turned the ball over a lot of times, so there's other things we can improve on."

O'Neal was limited in Monday's practice and left after a few minutes with dehydration and flu-like symptoms.

Backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley's status also is uncertain for Tuesday night. He has missed the last two games with a sore right Achilles tendon.

Carlisle wants the Pacers to focus on things they have some control over. Indiana had 23 turnovers in Saturday's loss, and O'Neal fouled out in the closing minutes to take the momentum out of a rally.

"Lineup changes are always a possibility in the playoffs," Carlisle said, "but it's not going to matter if we keep turning the ball over and getting in foul trouble."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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