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Miller leads Pacers with 24, O'Neal drops 16

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal felt a little rusty in his
first game back from his lengthy suspension. That was not a problem
in his second game since returning to Indiana's lineup.

O'Neal, who missed 15 games for his role in a brawl with Detroit
fans on Nov. 19, finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds as the
struggling Pacers beat the New Orleans Hornets 100-82 on Monday
night.

"It's coming back," O'Neal said. "I'm feeling a little more
comfortable. I'm not second-guessing anything, I'm just out there
playing."

O'Neal went 7-of-15 from the field and Indiana (13-13) shot 51
percent to hand the Hornets (2-25) their sixth straight loss.
Reggie Miller scored 24 points for the Pacers, who snapped a
three-game losing streak and won for just the third time in 13
games.

Lee Nailon had a career-high 28 points for New Orleans, which
dropped to 0-10 against Eastern Conference teams this season.

O'Neal looked much sharper early in the game against the Hornets
than he did in Saturday's loss to Detroit. He scored nine points in
the first quarter on 4-of-6 shooting as the Pacers opened a 27-19
lead.

"He looked pretty good for a guy who has been out for five
weeks," said Hornets center P.J. Brown, who was matched up with
O'Neal most of the game.

O'Neal's future remains uncertain after an arbitrator knocked 10
games off his 25-game suspension. He will play Wednesday at
Charlotte, and then his case will be heard in federal court
Thursday when a judge will decide whether to uphold the decision.

The Pacers, who used their 17th different starting lineup,
capitalized on an injury-depleted Hornets team that was using their
13th different starting lineup this season.

The Hornets dressed only nine players after trading guard David
Wesley to Houston for Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar earlier in
the day. Wesley, a member of the Hornets franchise since 1997-98,
is the team leader in games started and also ranks in the top three
in 12 other categories.

New Orleans could have used Wesley on Monday night. The Hornets
shot 40 percent, including 1-of-15 from 3-point range, losing for
the 17th time in 18 games.

"I don't think anybody feels sorry for us, and we obviously
don't feel sorry for anybody," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

O'Neal's return opened things up for Indiana's perimeter
players, especially Miller, who scored 12 points in the second
quarter to give Indiana a 55-41 halftime lead.

New Orleans got within 14 following a jumper by Nailon and a
dunk by J.R. Smith midway through the third quarter. But the Pacers
responded with a 7-0 run to push the lead back to 72-51 with 3:51
left. O'Neal started the rally with an offensive rebound and dunk.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said getting O'Neal back was the
first good news the team received since the brawl.

"Not many guys would be able to do what he's done in these two
games in terms of numbers and giving this team a spiritual lift,"
Carlisle said.

O'Neal has scored 37 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked six
shots since returning.

Game notes
Jamaal Tinsley started despite a sinus infection that has
been bothering him for about a week. ... Curry started in place of
James Jones, marking the 17th different starting lineup for the
Pacers this season. ... Matt Freije started for New Orleans in
place of Chris Andersen, who had food poisoning. ... Baron Davis
came off the bench in his third game back after missing 19 games
with an inflamed disk in his lower back. He scored five points in
24 minutes.