O'Neal's jumper at buzzer thwarts Pistons' comeback


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal made the shot, the
buzzer sounded and the celebration began.

Game over? Not so fast.

Officials reviewed the replay of O'Neal's shot for about 15
minutes before ruling it was good, giving the Pacers an 88-86
victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

O'Neal, who finished with 17 points, knew what they would find.

"When it left my hand, I knew it was good,'' O'Neal said.

The NBA added instant replay this year, permitting officials to
review plays in the final few seconds of any quarter. Officials Joe
DeRosa, Jess Kersey and Courtney Kirkland studied the replay,
talked with the coaches and then headed to midcourt for more
discussion before making their decision.

"It was a split-second situation. It looked to me like the ball
was still in his hands,'' Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "I
disagree with the decision, but I respect the call.''

The Pacers inbounded the ball with 24.1 seconds left. Indiana's
Erick Strickland drove toward the basket, ran into defensive
pressure and kicked it out to O'Neal. He set himself, made the
19-footer and was quickly mobbed by his teammates. Television
replays seemed to indicate the ball left O'Neal's hands with
four-tenths of a second left.

Detroit was questioning whether it was a shot-clock violation,
DeRosa said.

"Twenty-four seconds had not expired off the game clock before
the ball was released from his hands,'' he said. "So, therefore,
the basket was good and it was not a shot-clock violation. They
scored the basket and the game was over.''

O'Neal raised his hands in triumph when the decision was
announced to the crowd.

Said Detroit's Cliff Robinson: "It was a shot-clock violation.
All you have to do is look at the tape and see, it's still in his

Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said he hoped Detroit appreciated how
carefully the officials handled the situation.

"I know if I was on the other end, I would appreciate it if the
officials really huddled and talked about it as opposed to just
saying, 'You lost,''' he said.

The winning shot was O'Neal's only field goal of the second
half. He had scored 15 points in the first half and was 0-for-5 in
the second before his final shot.

"It was kind of a bizarre game for me,'' O'Neal said.

Reggie Miller scored 21 points, Brad Miller had 19 points and 15
rebounds and Ron Artest also had 19 points for the Pacers.

It was a wild ending to a game the Pacers seemingly had won when
they led 86-77 with just over two minutes left.

That lead was wiped out when Detroit's Jon Barry, Robinson and
Chauncey Billups all hit 3-pointers, tying the score at 86 with
51.2 seconds left.

"We felt like we could get back in the game and we did by
knocking down those 3s,'' Barry said. "We just came up short.''

O'Neal's shot made up for his mishandling of the ball on
Indiana's previous possession. He tried to spin around Robinson on
the right block but lost control of the ball for a turnover.

"I almost cost my team the game, but fortunately for myself I
hit the shot to get a win for my team,'' O'Neal said.

Billups, who led the Pistons with 21 points, then missed a
running jumper over Strickland.

The Pacers increased their lead over Detroit in the Central
Division to 2.5 games and won their 11th straight at home. The
Pacers are 18-1 at Conseco Fieldhouse and haven't lost there since
Nov. 23 to the Pistons.

Barry and Robinson each scored 12 points.

It was a tough, physical game with players banging in the paint,
arguing with officials and neither team being able to open much of
a lead through three quarters.

Then the Pacers started the fourth on a 10-2 run to lead 78-67.

Chucky Atkins hit a 3 with 4:42 left as the Pistons pulled to
80-75, only to allow the Pacers to score six of the next eight

Game notes
The Pacers are at Detroit on Monday. ... Indiana placed
guard Jamison Brewer on the injured list and activated forward
Austin Croshere. Croshere injured a rib muscle on Jan. 6. Brewer
has a strained right groin. ... Reggie Miller played 34 minutes,
making him the 12th player in NBA history to play more than 42,000
minutes in his career. He is seven points away from becoming the
18th player in league history to score 28,000 points.