INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Rick Carlisle knew Al Harrington would be
pumped up for his first game against his former team.
Carlisle watched as the Atlanta forward almost beat the Indiana
Pacers all by himself Wednesday night.
Jermaine O'Neal's big game spoiled an otherwise happy homecoming
for his good friend Harrington. O'Neal had 25 points and 13
rebounds to offset a dazzling performance by Harrington in the
Pacers' 93-86 victory over the Hawks.
"This is what Al's capable of doing," Carlisle said. "He's
capable of being a top-level, big-time player and he showed that
Harrington, who spent his first six seasons in Indiana before
being traded in the offseason for Stephen Jackson, scored 30 points
on 12-of-19 shooting. That was nearly enough.
Austin Croshere added 13 points, 13 rebounds and two
electrifying dunks in the fourth quarter to help the Pacers ward
off the pesky Hawks.
Harrington dropped a pretty 18-foot fadeaway over Ron Artest to
give the Hawks a 74-71 lead with 6:28 to play, but the Pacers
responded with a 16-4 run to take control. Croshere had two dunks
and O'Neal hit a nifty turnaround in the lane during the spurt.
"It was the best-case scenario," Croshere said. "Al had a big
game and we won."
But Indiana's Eastern Conference-leading sixth win didn't come
easy, mostly because of Harrington's inspired play.
Tired of coming off the bench in Indiana, Harrington asked for a
trade in the offseason to a team where he would play a larger role,
and he certainly has that with the lowly Hawks (2-6).
He clearly has embraced the increased responsibility, becoming a
vocal leader. After the game, Harrington could be heard outside the
locker room shouting at a few of his teammates for taking the loss
"It wasn't good enough," Harrington said. "This is a team
game. For the most part we are getting better because I promise you
a week ago, Indiana would have beat us by 30."
After receiving a warm welcome from the crowd, his emotional
play sparked Atlanta to a big early lead. The Hawks shot 74 percent
from the field in the first quarter to go up 31-16.
"That was good," Harrington said of the ovation. "It just
goes to show that all the things I did here for my six years they
The Pacers got back into the game in the second quarter, taking
advantage of 35 percent shooting from the Hawks and O'Neal's
dominance in the post.
O'Neal went right at Atlanta's overmatched front line, driving
to the basket early and often for dunks and fouls. The Pacers kept
charging in the second half, outscoring Atlanta 22-13 in the third
quarter to take a 64-62 lead.
Were it not for Harrington, the Hawks might have never had a
chance. He scored eight of his team's 13 points in the third
quarter to keep Atlanta close.
Most of those points came against Artest, last season's
defensive player of the year.
While his pride was hurt a little bit by giving up 30 to his
buddy, Artest said he wasn't surprised by Harrington's success.
"That's how he played every day in practice," Artest said.
"Al played great. I hope he's an All-Star."
He played like one on Wednesday, but the Pacers had too much
depth and balance. Artest had 24 points and four steals, and
Croshere, Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley all came up with big shots
down the stretch to supplement O'Neal.
"That's been the story of our season so far," O'Neal said.
"We have too much offensively."
And while O'Neal had plenty of help, Harrington didn't have
nearly the supporting cast.
Antoine Walker was the only other Hawks player in double figures
with 16 points, but he shot just 7-of-21 and was 0-for-4 from the
So the Harrington-for-Jackson swap appears to have helped all
involved. Jackson wanted to play for a winner and Harrington was
willing to sacrifice those wins for more playing time.
When asked what was the toughest part of coming back to Conseco
Fieldhouse, Harrington said: "Coming to (the visitors') locker
room. I wanted to go over to that locker room, took the wrong turn.
It kept leading me that way, but I just had to realize that's over
now and I just have to move on, and I am."
Harrington is not the only Hawks player with Indiana ties.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson played at Broad Ripple High School in
Indianapolis and starred at Indiana University. General manager
Billy Knight is a former player and front office executive for the
Pacers. ... Pacers G Reggie Miller had the cast on his broken left
hand removed. ... Pacers F Jonathan Bender returned to the lineup
after missing the previous six games with an injured left knee.