Pacers, led by O'Neal, cruise past Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Jermaine O'Neal didn't have it out for
Portland. Quite the contrary.

O'Neal scored 27 points and had 15 rebounds for his eighth
double-double of the season and the Indiana Pacers beat the Trail
Blazers 98-78 on Friday night.

It is the first time that O'Neal has won in the city where he
played his first four years in the NBA.

"When people look at the way I played tonight they're going to
say I tried to play that way because it's Portland," he said. "It
wasn't because of that. Portland will always be a special place for

The Pacers were playing on the road for the fourth time in six
days, but they had no trouble with the struggling Blazers, who have
lost seven of nine.

Indiana trailed 22-18 to start the second quarter, but went on a
16-2 run to take a 34-24 lead on O'Neal's 18-foot jumper.

The Pacers went on to lead by as many as 28 points en route to
their sixth win in eight games.

Sarunas Jasikevicius had 14 points, and Ron Artest added 12 and
five rebounds for Indiana, which came off a 109-91 loss to Phoenix
on Wednesday night -- a game the Pacers never led.

The Blazers were back at home after going 2-5 on an East Coast
road swing, including losses in their last two games.

Jarrett Jack came of the bench to lead the Blazers with 15
points. Zach Randolph, averaging 18.6 points and 9.8 rebounds going
in, had 12 points and two rebounds against the Pacers.

"It was like running in quicksand," said coach Nate McMillan,
in his first year with the Blazers. "We just couldn't get the
motor running."

The Blazers drafted O'Neal out of high school in the first round
in 1996. He played four seasons with Portland before being dealt to
Indiana in 2000.

O'Neal had a shoulder injury and didn't play last season when
the Pacers beat the Blazers 106-97 at the Rose Garden. The Pacers
were winless in their previous four visits to Portland with O'Neal.

"Maturity is everything and if I wasn't here to start my
career, I don't know where I'd be at," O'Neal said. "I give all
the credit to all the teammates I had the four years, to all the
fans, to all the people of Portland, to really get me ready -- kind
of bake that cake and pass me on to Indianapolis where that city
kind of put the icing on the cake."

The Pacers saw the return of forward Jeff Foster, who has been
on the inactive list this season with a sore left Achilles' heel.
He scored four points and grabbed six rebounds.

"Jeff Foster gave us a lift," coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's
great to have him back out there."

Disgruntled Blazers reserve forward Ruben Patterson remained on
the team's inactive list Friday, although McMillan said he had
agreed to return to the team.

Patterson was suspended for two games and then went on the
inactive list after cursing at McMillan during a game against the
New York Knicks on Nov. 20.

Patterson has been unhappy about his minutes, playing a reserve
role behind Darius Miles and Randolph.

Game notes
Blazers rookie Martell Webster was not with the team
because of a death in his family. ... Blazers center Theo Ratliff
was inactive because of foot pain. ... Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley
had a sore left groin and didn't play. Carlisle said he was
day-to-day. Jasikevicius started in his place.