It made no difference.
"Obviously, Atlanta has a young team," O'Neal said. "You
don't want to give a young team any motivation to compete with you.
Those guys still competed."
O'Neal scored 38 points to help Indiana beat Atlanta 84-79 on
Saturday night, the Pacers' second straight victory after a
six-game losing streak.
Ekezie scored five points and fouled out in 22 minutes.
Meanwhile, O'Neal hit eight of nine free-throw attempts -- the last
two with 3.3 seconds left -- and helped give the Pacers' 26-9
scoring advantage from the line.
"That's what I'm expected to do," O'Neal said. "Every night
I'm not going to get the ball all the time, but when I'm going,
then my team expects me to make shots and make big plays. Tonight I
was fortunate to be able to do that."
Anthony Johnson's putback with 5:19 remaining capped a 24-9 run
for Indiana, which won its seventh straight against the Hawks and
fourth straight in Atlanta.
On Friday night in Indianapolis, the Pacers beat Dallas 95-94 to
end their longest losing streak in two years.
Reserve guard Eddie Gill added 10 points for the Pacers.
Antoine Walker and Al Harrington each scored 26 points for the
Hawks, who have lost three straight and 10 of 12. Walker's
3-pointer gave Atlanta its biggest lead at 59-51 with 3:04 left in
the third quarter.
"Jermaine O'Neal did a terrific job. He had a great offensive
night," Walker said. "But we shut down the other guys and put
ourselves in a great position to win. A tough couple of plays, a
couple of taps didn't go in there at the end."
Harrington missed a pair of free throws with 34.9 seconds
remaining that could've cut the lead to 82-81. The 6-foot-9 power
forward also was beaten on a jump ball by Johnson, a 6-3 guard,
that allowed O'Neal to hit a 15-footer from the right side that
gave Indiana an 80-76 lead with 2:24 remaining.
O'Neal was 7-for-9 in the second half.
"I came back and could have made a couple of plays that I
messed up on that could have possibly won the game for us,"
Harrington said. "At the end of the day, we applaud the effort,
but no cigar."
After Eddie Gill hit two free throws to bring the Pacers within
six at the 1:46 mark of the third quarter, Indiana regained
momentum with a five-point possession. Gill's 3-pointer from the
left side cut it to 56-53 before Kevin Willis was called for
holding and an ensuing technical foul that allowed Austin Croshere
and Scot Pollard to each hit one free throw to make it 59-58.
"I was in the process of shooting," Gill said. "I guess they
were calling a foul. That was definitely a big play for us."
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle is impressed with the recent play of
Gill, who scored a combined 17 points the last two games on 5-for-8
"The important thing for a pro player is not to worry about
your numbers," Carlisle said. "You've got to stay in the moment.
And the thing I like about Eddie is he's really proving that he's a
pro. He's able to approach each situation in a singular way. When
it was the right time to step into 3s, he stepped in and hit
Indiana's Reggie Miller was 0-for-2 from the floor and finished
with two points on a pair of free throws. Of Miller's 21 minutes,
only six were in the second half, none in the fourth quarter. He
played the final 4.5 seconds.
Indiana is 8-5 on the road against Eastern Conference
opponents. ... Johnson started his third straight game at point
guard in place of Jamaal Tinsley, who has a bruised left foot. ...
Hawks starting point guard Tyronn Lue is expected to miss at least
four games after straining his left Achilles' tendon Friday night