INDIANAPOLIS -- Rick Carlisle, normally loathe to discuss
milestones and records, couldn't ignore the significance of winning
50 games in his first three seasons as a head coach.
"It's hard to win 50," Carlisle said. "It's never easy. You
have to give all the credit to the players."
Ron Artest scored 21 points to lead the Indiana Pacers to an
80-71 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night,
making Carlisle the sixth coach to win at least 50 games in his
first three seasons since the NBA expanded the schedule to 82 games
Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Paul Westphal, Gregg Popovich and Rick
Adelman are the other coaches to do it.
Reggie Miller added 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting for the
Pacers, who overcame a big disparity at the free throw line to
improve the NBA's best record to 50-17.
Carlisle won exactly 50 games in each of his first two seasons
coaching the Detroit Pistons before being replaced by Larry Brown
last summer. He was hired by Pacers president Larry Bird in
September and appears headed for much more than 50 wins this
The Pacers closed the game with a 10-0 run to put away a
Portland team that had made a habit of beating the league's best
teams in recent weeks.
Artest hit a 3-pointer, Jermaine O'Neal added a jumper and
Miller made another 3-pointer to give Indiana a 78-71 lead with
1:43 to play.
"They made the shots they had to make down the stretch of the
game," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Their defense was
great. That was it. That was the game."
The Blazers, who beat Sacramento and Minnesota twice during
their four-game win streak, went scoreless for the final five
minutes and couldn't take advantage of a 19-attempt discrepancy at
the free throw line.
Portland was 19-for-25 from the line while Indiana was just
4-for-6, but the Blazers made just two field goals in the fourth
"Late in the game we didn't get anything going to the rim,"
Cheeks said. "We shot a lot of jump shots."
The Pacers held a 43-42 lead at halftime despite Portland going
13-for-17 at the line while Indiana was 0-for-1.
"I let the officials know about that at halftime," Carlisle
Zach Randolph led the Blazers with 16 points and Damon
Stoudamire had 14, but the Blazers turned the ball over 20 times
leading to 21 Indiana points.
Randolph had his way with the Pacers down low in the first half,
but scored just four points in the final 24 minutes against the
strong defense of Al Harrington.
"Our team defense in the second half swarmed," Carlisle said.
"We were able to keep (Randolph) from getting some good looks, and
that's the key to beating Portland."
Harrington had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Jamaal Tinsley added five points and 12
assists for Indiana. O'Neal had 10
points and 10 rebounds, getting his 40th double-double of the season -- good enough for third in the league behind Kevin Garnett (58) and Tim Duncan (46).
The victory over the Blazers, coupled with Sacramento's loss to
Washington, gives the Pacers an opportunity to widen their lead in
the race for the league's best record -- and homecourt advantage
throughout the playoffs -- when they face the Kings on Friday in
The Pacers are 11-1 at home against Western Conference
opponents, including seven consecutive wins.
"Right now we're in a good position, but we take nothing for
granted," Carlisle said. "Winning 50 was certainly one of our
goals, but we still have a lot of work to do."
Count Carlisle as one of Blazers PG Omar Cook's fans. Cook
had a good training camp with Indiana, but was cut before the
season started. He signed with Portland on Feb. 26. "You knew it
was getting close to being his time," Carlisle said. "He's in a
good situation there." ... The Pacers held a halftime ceremony to
honor players and cheerleaders from Milan High School's 1954 state
championship team, which inspired the movie "Hoosiers."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.