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KG, Spree unable to convert in final seconds

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- It sure looks as if it's going to take more
than a bunch of injuries and a suspended star to stop the Indiana
Pacers.

Jermaine O'Neal had 22 points and eight rebounds to help the
banged-up, unbeaten Pacers hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves
102-101 on Tuesday night -- with Ron Artest benched for an
unspecified reason.

"This team is so far from being a one- or two-man show,"
O'Neal said. "Pretty soon someone's going to have to say something
about us."

Artest, an All-Star and the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of
the Year, did something Monday that "compromised the integrity of
the team." That's according to coach Rick Carlisle, who called it
a "private team matter." Artest won't play Wednesday, either.

It's not as if he wasn't missed, especially down the stretch as
Latrell Sprewell (21 points) and Wally Szczerbiak (20 points) led
Minnesota's comeback. But the Pacers (4-0), with several reserves
seeing extensive playing time, also proved they've got plenty of
capable bodies on the roster.

"We showed a lot of poise and a lot of team camaraderie," said
Stephen Jackson, who had 21 points.

The Timberwolves missed two late chances to win. Kevin Garnett's
turnaround jumper fell short with about five seconds left, and they
retained possession after the ball went out of bounds.

"Pretty good look," Garnett said. "I know I can hit that nine
out of 10 times."

Then Sprewell couldn't convert his 23-footer from the wing as
the buzzer sounded.

"This was what a team's about," Carlisle said. "It's about
having guys ready to step up and play."

Indiana owned a 47-30 rebounding advantage and went 21-for-23 at
the free-throw line. Minnesota, which got 22 points, 10 rebounds,
and eight assists from Garnett, made 20 of 28 foul shots. All the
misses were by Garnett, who went 6-for-14.

O'Neal -- making his first start of the season because of a sore
left foot -- played well against Garnett, last season's league MVP.
The game, however, was won by contributions from lesser-known
players such as Fred Jones (14 points, seven rebounds), Jamaal
Tinsley (18 points, six assists) and Eddie Gill (seven points).
Scot Pollard, returning from a back injury, led the Pacers with 11
rebounds.

"We got better in the fourth quarter, but that's a game we
shouldn't have lost," Szczerbiak said.

Sprewell and Szczerbiak accounted for all the scoring in a 12-4
spurt during a span of just more than three minutes late in the
fourth. Szczerbiak's 3-pointer sliced the lead to 96-92 with 3:02
left.

Maneuvering around Garnett in the post, O'Neal then took a
bounce pass from Tinsley and dunked -- hanging hard on the rim and
pumping his fist -- to give Indiana a 102-97 lead. Garnett fouled
him, but O'Neal missed the free throw and then fouled out on the
other end.

Szczerbiak made a pair of free throws, Tinsley threw the ball
away with Sprewell hounding Jackson, and Troy Hudson converted a
reverse layup to cut it to 102-101 with 33.3 seconds to go.

Tinsley's layup was short, and so was his tip attempt. Trenton
Hassell grabbed the rebound with 10.5 seconds left, setting up the
last possession.

Game notes
Sprewell, whose complaints last week about his lack of a
contract extension brought him heavy criticism, whirled around
during a first-quarter timeout when a fan behind the bench taunted
him. Sprewell yelled some obscenities before returning to the
court. Security gave the man a brief lecture on etiquette. "When
you pay you have a right to do things," coach Flip Saunders said,
"but that doesn't mean it's right." ... Eddie Griffin, who served
a three-game suspension for pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault
for a fight last year in Texas, made his first regular-season NBA
appearance since April 16, 2003. Griffin, who didn't play last
season because of suspensions, legal troubles and time spent
getting treatment for alcohol abuse, had two points and one rebound
in 12 minutes for Minnesota. ... Pacers forward Jonathan Bender,
who played in the opener but has been nursing a sore right knee
since training camp, could return Wednesday against the Clippers.
... Timberwolves guard Fred Hoiberg sat out with back spasms.