Artest had surgery to repair torn ligaments on his left thumb Thursday, and Pacers coach Rick Carlisle is not sure when he’ll be back.
“We’re not saying anything because we’re not for sure,” Carlisle said. “Even the doctors are having a hard time putting a timetable on it.”
Carlisle said the team was hopeful Artest would be able to return before the playoffs start in mid-April.
Jermaine O’Neil and Reggie Miller will continue to be the Pacers’ primary scorers in Artest’s absence, but Indiana needs players like Jamaal Tinsley, Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender and Austin Croshere to pick up their respective games.
Tinsley came through on Friday, making two 3-pointers in the final 1:10 to help clinch a 96-87 victory over the Washington Wizards. He finished with a season-high 19 points and 10 assists.
O’Neal added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Miller scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter for the Pacers.
“I loved the fact that we gutted it out,” Carlisle said. “The dynamics of our team are different without Ron Artest. We’re going to have to figure it out as we go. We’re a little bit of a work in progress with this new setup.”
Indiana won despite 22 turnovers Friday. The Pacers have committed at least 20 turnovers in four of their last five games.
Utah forced 17 turnovers and held New York to 38.1 percent shooting to earn a 92-78 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Andrei Kirilenko scored 23 points and Sasha Pavlovic, making his first start at shooting guard, added 16 for the Jazz.
Utah, coming off lopsided road losses at Miami and Orlando, snapped a three-game losing streak by using a new starting lineup. Jarron Collins replaced Greg Ostertag at center for the first time this season, and Pavlovic took over the spot formerly held by DeShawn Stevenson, who was traded to Orlando on Thursday for Gordan Giricek.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 20): Jazz - 7th place, 13 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Pacers - 1st place (tied), Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Jazz - Kirilenko, 16.7 ppg; Ostertag, 8.1 rpg; Arroyo, 5 apg. Pacers - O’Neal, 20.2 ppg and 10.3 rpg; Tinsley, 5.2 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 14, 2003. Pacers, 101-81. At Indianapolis, Ind., Bender scored a career-high 22 points and Erick Strickland had 19 points and 11 assists as the Pacers ended a six-game losing streak. Former Jazz forward Karl Malone scored 21 points to lead Utah.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jazz - 8-19 on the road; Pacers - 21-6 at home.