Indiana (43-16) at Golden State (25-33)

Cloudy Currently: Oakland, CA
Temp: 64° F
  • Game info: 10:30 pm EST Tue Mar 2, 2004
  • TV: FSBA
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With Ron Artest expected to return, the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers try to win for the fifth time in six games when they meet the Golden State Warriors in the opener of a four-game road trip.

Artest sprained a ligament in his left thumb last month and then aggravated the injury in an 89-75 loss to New Orleans on Feb. 17. It was believed he might miss the rest of the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair the ligament two days later.

However, the All-Star forward began working out almost immediately after the procedure and was examined Monday in New York. That led to Artest being activated from the injured list Tuesday, and he is expected to start this contest with a protective padding around the thumb.

“It’s an unusual situation, but Ron’s an unusual player,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He had a similar procedure in college with the same doctor and with her approval was able to play after a similar layoff.”

Indiana was doing fine without Artest despite missing his 18 points, 5.3 rebounds and two steals per game. The Pacers went 4-1 with Al Harrington starting in place of him.

Harrington had one of his strongest games of the season Saturday, teaming with Jermaine O’Neal to give Indiana an overpowering post presence in an 81-74 win over Philadelphia.

O’Neal led the Pacers with 23 points, but Harrington was just as impressive, finishing with 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

“Al brought great energy,” Carlisle said of Harrington, averaging 13.3 points and 6.5 boards. “He was patient on offense and we needed someone to step up offensively instead of Jermaine.”

Golden State has dropped three of four, including an 87-81 overtime loss to Chicago on Saturday.

Jason Richardson scored 25 points to lead the Warriors, who were playing their fourth game in five nights and appeared lethargic at times.

“It had an obvious huge effect on our legs. Not only that, but we’re so banged up (with) limited options,” Warriors coach Eric Musselman said.

Musselman lost another of those options when guard Nick Van Exel returned to the injured list Monday with chronic left knee inflammation. Van Exel missed eight games in February with the same ailment.

The Warriors are also without point guard Speedy Claxton, who has a fractured finger on his right hand and is expected to miss several more weeks.

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