The Pacers did more than just pass Sacramento (34-13) for the league’s best overall record with Friday’s 83-77 win at Toronto. Indiana also improved to 17-9 away from home, one more win than it managed on the road during the 2002-03 campaign.
“That says a lot,” Artest said of Indiana’s road record. “For us to have more road wins already, I didn’t realize that. That shows the team is maturing.”
“We’re very mature right now,” said O’Neal, whose team went 16-25 on the road last season. “We understand that we may lose a game at home in the playoffs, and we have to be able to go into a tough arena and win a game.
“Right now, we’re just setting a tone. We’re sending a message not only to ourselves, but to the rest of the league that we can win on the road, no matter who it is.”
The Pacers also boast the best home record in the East at 20-5, and have won nine of their last 10 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Heat had won five of six before dropping three in a row, including Saturday’s 76-64 setback to the visiting New York Knicks. Miami was held to a season-low point total, going 6:11 without a field goal in the fourth quarter.
“Missing got contagious for us today,” said Miami forward Brian Grant, who returned to the lineup after missing five games. “We missed a lot of open looks. You hate when that happens in such a crucial game, and we felt that this was a crucial game for us.”
Lamar Odom scored 18 points for the Heat, who shot 30 percent from the field, including a dismal 1-of-15 performance from 3-point range.
Miami’s Caron Butler bruised his right elbow while diving for a loose ball Saturday. He will be re-evaluated on Sunday.