"The fouls they called on me are unbelievable," the Indiana
star said after Boston's 78-76 victory Tuesday night.
The Celtics won on Vin Baker's fallaway jumper in the lane with
20 seconds left.
O'Neal blasted the officials for calling three offensive fouls
that kept him on the bench much of the second half.
"Do I need to make five or six more All Star games, win an
Olympic gold, continue to make All-NBA teams for me to get some
respect in the paint?" he asked. "It's frustrating to me."
O'Neal had a dominating first half, scoring 21 points and
grabbing nine rebounds to help the Pacers take a 48-34 lead.
But O'Neal went to the bench with 7:22 to play in the third
quarter after picking up his fourth foul. He managed just four
points and two rebounds in the second half to finish with 25 points
and 11 rebounds.
"These refs are taking away my aggressiveness in the post,"
O'Neal said. "There are guys that are afraid to guard me. I can't
be effective if I'm not on the court. Any other player would
probably get that (respect), but for some reason, it's not for
When asked if he had any theories about why he wasn't getting
the calls, O'Neal said, "I don't know. Maybe this market isn't big
enough. Maybe they don't like me."
After Baker hit his shot to give Boston a 77-76 lead, O'Neal
missed a short jumper with time winding down and Boston's Eric
Williams corralled the loose ball to seal the victory.
"Vin really hit a clutch shot," Boston coach Jim O'Brien said.
"It's nice to see guys want to shoot the basketball at the end of
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 19 points, nine assists and six
rebounds, and Baker had 12 points and four rebounds.
Indiana lost for the first time in six games to drop to 6-2.
Boston clamped down defensively after falling behind in the
first half, forcing bad shots from Indiana, which shot 32 percent
in the second half to allow the Celtics back into the game.
"We really tightened up our defense, rebounded the ball and we
made it a possession game," Pierce said. "We played a lot tougher
basketball in the second half and got the job done."
Raef LaFrentz hit a baseline jumper early in the fourth to give
Boston the lead at 63-62. That shot came in the middle of a 9-0 run
by Boston to open the quarter that pushed the lead to 68-62, and
started a back-and-forth final period.
The Pacers came right back with eight points in a row to take
back the lead at 70-68.
The lead would change hands five more times. O'Neal's layup with
37 seconds to play gave Indiana its last lead at 76-75.
Baker followed with his shot and Mike James added a free throw
to cap the scoring.
Al Harrington added 17 points and six rebounds for Indiana,
which turned the ball over 20 times.
James and Tony Battie each scored 11 points for Boston.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle received a technical foul in the
first quarter for arguing a call. Carlisle began his NBA playing
career with the Celtics in 1984. He played three seasons in Boston
and was teammates with Pacers president Larry Bird and Boston
executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge.