The dysfunctional Indiana Pacers are not letting their personal issues overshadow their talent.
During a week in which coach Rick Carlisle blasted Artest for his laziness and Artest fired back, Indiana was able to end 2003 on a positive note with back-to-back wins over Memphis and Cleveland.
The public squabble between player and coach intensified when Artest missed Monday’s practice.
Carlisle did not start his best defensive player that night, but Artest came off the bench and scored 18 points in the win over Memphis. The following night, Artest’s 3-pointer with 54.6 seconds left gave his team a 92-89 win at Cleveland.
“Whatever happened before, happened before,” Carlisle said after the game. “The important thing for us, as a team, was to move on to the next game and to move on to basketball. I’m really happy for our team the way we were able to win two in a row on a back-to-back.”
Artest finished with 18 points and minimized Cleveland rookie LeBron James’ effectiveness in the fourth quarter with aggressive defense. Jermaine O’Neal had a team-high 21 and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“I just think (the controversy) is pretty much gone,” Artest said. “We need to start off the new year with a victory.”
The Celtics alternated wins and losses over their final 10 games of 2003, including a 96-94 setback to the New Orleans Hornets on New Year’s Eve.
Since the trade on Dec. 15 that brought Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm and Michael Stewart to Boston, the Celtics have not been able to establish consistency, and have not found another scoring option to complement Paul Pierce.
Such was the case in Wednesday’s loss to New Orleans, as Pierce was held to 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Davis, who was supposed to bolster the offense, is averaging just 9.8 points per game as a reserve with Boston.
“Even the great ones struggle and have tough nights,” Celtics guard Mike James said. “Other guys have to be ready to pick up the slack.”