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O'Neal leads Pacers to win in preseason debut

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal made his preseason debut
in style Thursday, scoring a team-high 16 points as the Indiana
Pacers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-76.

Yet O'Neal said he felt rusty, missing a lot of shots he
normally would have made. He didn't even try a 3-pointer.

"But it's coming," he said. "It's coming."

O'Neal missed the team's first four preseason games with a
bruised thigh, and is among a number of players who've been
grappling with injuries this year. But he put himself at 100
percent Thursday.

Anthony Johnson and Jamaal Tinsley, who have also dealt with
injuries, started Thursday. Ron Artest missed the game with a sore
right foot.

Still, the Pacers (4-1) are off to a strong start in preseason
play, something O'Neal attributed to the team's depth and
experience. This year, he said the Pacers could be an "extremely
tough team to beat."

The Timberwolves (1-4) kept the game close most of the way,
though they didn't lead at any point after the first quarter. In
the fourth, the Pacers pulled away after a 3-pointer by Sarunas
Jasikevicius.

Both teams ended the game with a comparable number of turnovers,
though Minnesota had a handful of players in foul trouble -- Rashad
McCants fouled out and three others had at least four personal
fouls.

Austin Croshere added 13 points for Indiana, followed by Danny
Granger with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Michael Olowokandi led the Timberwolves with 18 points, while
Kevin Garnett added 11 points and five rebounds. Marko Jaric,
playing his first preseason game, scored four points.

Jaric, who sprained an ankle in practice earlier this month,
said he felt good about where the team's at, in terms of balance
and being on the right track. He said the more-experienced Pacers
took advantage of the younger Minnesota team.

"Our younger guys are a little inexperienced, but it's gonna
come," said Jaric, who came to Minnesota this summer in a trade
with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Pacers also were without Fred Jones (flu). Minnesota did not
have Troy Hudson (strained left hip flexor) and Wally Szczerbiak
(sprained right foot).