Indiana (44-31) at Detroit (47-27)

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  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Apr 4, 2003
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Ron Artest’s latest discretion resulted in just a fine, not a suspension.

The volatile Indiana forward will consequently be on the court when the Pacers visit the Central Division-leading Detroit Pistons.

Artest, who has already been suspended for 12 games this season, was fined $20,000 by the NBA for making an obscene gesture to the crowd in Cleveland after a fan threw a quarter at him during the Pacers’ 103-82 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

At practice on Thursday, Artest said it would be unfair if he was suspended or fined.

“It was nothing that really happened,” he said when asked if he should be penalized for his actions. “They threw a quarter, and I told them to throw some more quarters, and that was it.”

Artest also drew a technical foul for shoving Cleveland’s Ricky Davis during the fourth quarter. He protested the call, then pushed teammate Austin Croshere when he stepped in to stop him.

“The referee called a technical on Ron, and Ron wanted to know why,” Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. “Ron is like any other player or any other person. When they get upset, they don’t want anybody close to them or touching them. I understand it, because I was the same way.”

While Artest will play against the Pistons, the Pacers could again be without All-Star forward Jermaine O’Neal, who sat out Wednesday’s game with an injured right ankle.

With seven games remaining, the Pacers are trying to hold on to home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They lead the New Orleans Hornets by 2 1/2 games for the fourth spot in the East. The top four teams in each conference earn home-court advantage for at least one round.

Detroit, meanwhile, is looking to lock up the top seed in the East. With eight games left, the Pistons lead the New Jersey Nets by 1 1/2 games for the conference’s best record.

The Pistons had a two-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday, losing to the Toronto Raptors 89-78.

“I think we’ve gotten a comfort level where we think we can fall behind and still come back and win,” Detroit’s Clifford Robinson said. “But that can’t be the way we play. This team has to play 48 minutes very night.”

STANDINGS: Pacers - 2nd place, 3 1/2 GB, Central Division. Pistons - 1st (tied) place, Central Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Pacers - F Artest, F Al Harrington, C Brad Miller, G Jamaal Tinsley, G Reggie Miller. Pistons - F Michael Curry, F Ben Wallace, C Robinson, G Richard Hamilton, G Chauncey Billups.

TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 20.3 ppg and 10.4 rpg; Tinsley, 7.4 apg. Pistons - Hamilton, 20.1 ppg; Wallace, 15.5 rpg; Billups, 3.7 apg.


LAST MEETING: Jan. 18; Pacers, 88-86. At Indianapolis, O’Neal, who finished with 17 points, hit a buzzer-beating 15-footer to give the Pacers the win. Officials had to review the play for nearly 15 minutes before deciding that O’Neal had beaten the final horn. Reggie Miller led the Pacers with 21 points, and Billups also scored a team-high 21 for Detroit.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pacers - 14-23 on the road; Pistons - 28-9 at home.

INJURIES: Pacers - F O’Neal (ankle); G Jamison Brewer (shoulder). Pistons - G Pepe Sanchez (knee); C Zeljko Rebraca (irregular heartbeat); F Don Reid (Achilles’).

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