Indiana (52-19) at Orlando (19-54)

Fair Currently: Orlando, FL
Temp: 83° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Fri Mar 26, 2004
  • TV: WTTV, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If most NBA teams lost their best player to injury, they probably wouldn’t fare too well on the court.

That’s not the case for the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana, playing without All-Star forward Jermaine O’Neal, looks to move closer to clinching the Central Division title when it visits the skidding Orlando Magic.

The Pacers have had numerous injuries this season, but they own the NBA’s best record because of their superior depth. Indiana exhibited that quality again on Wednesday night, beating the Dallas Mavericks 103-99 at home without O’Neal and Jonathan Bender.

Ron Artest had 20 points, eight steals and eight rebounds to lead six Pacers in double figures, and Al Harrington had 17 points and eight rebounds starting in place of the injured O’Neal.

O’Neal, averaging a team-leading 20.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, bruised his left knee in Monday’s 101-77 win over the Chicago Bulls. Bender was placed on the injured list Wednesday with a strained right shoulder.

“Hopefully I’ll be back for Miami on Sunday,” O’Neal said.

Austin Croshere scored 16 points, Jeff Foster added 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Reggie Miller made two crucial 3-pointers down the stretch as the Pacers improved to 3-0 without O’Neal this season.

“Everybody has to raise the level of their intensity, especially with the big guy out,” Miller said. “We’ve had depth all year and this is a chance to show everyone all these great, young, talented players on this team. This game was a good indication of that.”

Orlando, an NBA-worst 19-54, fell 105-90 at home to Miami on Wednesday for its sixth straight loss. The Magic have dropped eight of nine and haven’t posted consecutive victories since a three-game winning streak from Feb. 18-22.

Orlando has lost six of its last eight at home.

Tracy McGrady scored 18 points in his return from a two-game absence after the death of a great-grandmother. In McGrady’s last two games, he has scored 36 points following a three-game stretch in which he had 139—including an NBA season-high 62.

“We have to keep competing,” Magic coach Johnny Davis said. “We’ve got Indiana coming in next. It doesn’t get any easier but we still have to play games with the right frame of mind to come in and play winning basketball versus (just) playing.”

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