<
>

O'Neal's 26 points, 14 rebounds lead Pacers past Pistons

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers showed how they can perform with a full complement of players.

Two days after losing to Chicago with a number of key players out of the lineup, the suddenly healthy Pacers beat the Detroit Pistons 101-90 on Wednesday night.

Starters Jermaine O'Neal (sore hamstring), Al Harrington (stomach ailment) and Stephen Jackson (suspension) all missed Monday's game at Chicago, but returned against the Pistons, much to the delight of Indiana coach Rick Carlisle.

"It was certainly better than Monday night -- that wasn't any fun," Carlisle said. "It helps having Jermaine and Al."

O'Neal finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds in his first game back after missing three straight with the hamstring injury. Jamaal Tinsley had 21 points and Harrington scored 16 for the Pacers, who won their fifth straight game at Conseco Fieldhouse.

"Obviously, you want to take care of your home court and you want to play well in front of your hometown," O'Neal said. "It's good winning games at home."

Chauncey Billups had 22 points, Richard Hamilton scored 18 and Rasheed Wallace chipped in 14 for the Pistons, who lost to Indiana for just the fifth time since the brawl between the Pacers and Detroit fans on Nov. 19, 2004.

The Pistons shot 39 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half.

"It was like we were playing uphill the whole time," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "It's a situation where we never grabbed the game and took control of it."

Indiana took its biggest lead of the second half, 74-61, on Harrington's jumper with 2:30 left in the third quarter. But the Pistons closed out the period with consecutive 3-pointers by Billups and Wallace to get within 76-71.

The Pacers began the fourth quarter by scoring the first seven points, but Detroit responded with nine straight to cut Indiana's lead to 83-80.

"We fell behind and we just couldn't quite get over the hump," Billups said. "We kept closing the gap and they would come up with a big play or a big shot."

Indiana finally pulled away with the help of O'Neal, who scored 12 consecutive points, including a three-point play with less than two minutes left to put the Pacers ahead 99-88.

"We went into a spurt where we couldn't make plays and they cut the lead, and I just felt like I needed to take over," O'Neal said. "That comes from my team putting me in a position to be successful."

Saunders said the Pistons didn't have an answer for O'Neal in the fourth quarter.

"When you extend your defense, you're going to open up the middle a little bit," Saunders said. "We stopped trapping and our defense was still exposed, and he made plays."

Game notes
Jackson's one-game suspension was for conduct detrimental to the team. ... O'Neal missed three games with the sore left hamstring. ... The Pistons had their two-game road winning streak snapped. They had won at Dallas and Orlando. ... Tinsley picked up a technical foul for arguing a no-call late in the second quarter. ... Former Pacer Dale Davis received an ovation from the crowd when he entered the game in the first quarter. ... The Pacers improved to 7-2 at home this season.