Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 12/27

Game 1: Monday, December 27th
Game 2: Wednesday, January 19th

Hornets 82

(2-25, 1-15 away)

Pacers 100

(13-13, 8-6 home)

    Coverage: FSMW

    7:00 PM ET, December 27, 2004

    Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

    1 2 3 4 T
    NO 19 22 24 1782
    IND 27 28 9 36100

    Top Performers

    NO: L. Nailon 28 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

    Ind: R. Miller 24 Pts, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

    Miller leads Pacers with 24, O'Neal drops 16

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal felt a little rusty in his first game back from his lengthy suspension. That was not a problem in his second game since returning to Indiana's lineup.

    O'Neal, who missed 15 games for his role in a brawl with Detroit fans on Nov. 19, finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds as the struggling Pacers beat the New Orleans Hornets 100-82 on Monday night.

    "It's coming back," O'Neal said. "I'm feeling a little more comfortable. I'm not second-guessing anything, I'm just out there playing."

    O'Neal went 7-of-15 from the field and Indiana (13-13) shot 51 percent to hand the Hornets (2-25) their sixth straight loss. Reggie Miller scored 24 points for the Pacers, who snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the third time in 13 games.

    Lee Nailon had a career-high 28 points for New Orleans, which dropped to 0-10 against Eastern Conference teams this season.

    O'Neal looked much sharper early in the game against the Hornets than he did in Saturday's loss to Detroit. He scored nine points in the first quarter on 4-of-6 shooting as the Pacers opened a 27-19 lead.

    "He looked pretty good for a guy who has been out for five weeks," said Hornets center P.J. Brown, who was matched up with O'Neal most of the game.

    O'Neal's future remains uncertain after an arbitrator knocked 10 games off his 25-game suspension. He will play Wednesday at Charlotte, and then his case will be heard in federal court Thursday when a judge will decide whether to uphold the decision.

    The Pacers, who used their 17th different starting lineup, capitalized on an injury-depleted Hornets team that was using their 13th different starting lineup this season.

    The Hornets dressed only nine players after trading guard David Wesley to Houston for Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar earlier in the day. Wesley, a member of the Hornets franchise since 1997-98, is the team leader in games started and also ranks in the top three in 12 other categories.

    New Orleans could have used Wesley on Monday night. The Hornets shot 40 percent, including 1-of-15 from 3-point range, losing for the 17th time in 18 games.

    "I don't think anybody feels sorry for us, and we obviously don't feel sorry for anybody," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

    O'Neal's return opened things up for Indiana's perimeter players, especially Miller, who scored 12 points in the second quarter to give Indiana a 55-41 halftime lead.

    New Orleans got within 14 following a jumper by Nailon and a dunk by J.R. Smith midway through the third quarter. But the Pacers responded with a 7-0 run to push the lead back to 72-51 with 3:51 left. O'Neal started the rally with an offensive rebound and dunk.

    Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said getting O'Neal back was the first good news the team received since the brawl.

    "Not many guys would be able to do what he's done in these two games in terms of numbers and giving this team a spiritual lift," Carlisle said.

    O'Neal has scored 37 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked six shots since returning.

    Game notes

    Jamaal Tinsley started despite a sinus infection that has been bothering him for about a week. ... Curry started in place of James Jones, marking the 17th different starting lineup for the Pacers this season. ... Matt Freije started for New Orleans in place of Chris Andersen, who had food poisoning. ... Baron Davis came off the bench in his third game back after missing 19 games with an inflamed disk in his lower back. He scored five points in 24 minutes.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 82 100
    FGM-FGA 31-77 (.403) 34-67 (.507)
    3PM-3PA 1-15 (.067) 5-10 (.500)
    FTM-FTA 19-28 (.679) 27-33 (.818)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-31 11-45
    Assists 16 20
    Turnovers 8 17
    Steals 8 4
    Blocks 6 3
    Fast Break Points 8 19
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 17 (1/1) 22 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 799 30

    Top Performers

    New Orleans
    Lee Nailon Nailon
    Points: 28
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Reggie Miller Miller
    Points: 24
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0