The Pacers look to continue their recent hot streak without the services of Artest when they host the suddenly struggling Los Angeles Clippers.
Artest, who was suspended for 73 games and the playoffs last season for his role in the infamous Nov. 19 brawl in Detroit, recently said that his past still haunts him in Indiana and that he would like to be traded.
He was fined $10,000 by the NBA for making public statements detrimental to the NBA, and his agent said Saturday that Artest would like to remain with the team.
Still, Artest remains on the inactive list and Pacers president Donnie Walsh is still looking to trade him.
The Pacers have gone 4-1 without Artest, including a 102-96 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday. Indiana has allowed opponents to score just 83.4 points and shoot just 38.4 percent in those five games, after allowing averages of 91.3 points and 43.9 percent shooting in 16 games with Artest.
“I think we’ve been doing things a lot better,” Pacers forward Austin Croshere said. “We’re getting better ball movement, playing inside-out basketball a little bit more. We’re playing better, defensively, which is helping us get out on the break a little more. Overall, the energy has been better.”
Against the Knicks, four players recorded season highs in scoring—Jermaine O’Neal with 31 point, Jamaal Tinsley with 23, Sarunas Jasikevicius with 18 and rookie Danny Granger with 12. Granger, who played a season-high 29 minutes, scored all of his points in the second half and had three big blocks in the fourth quarter.
Granger said he is ready to step up if Artest does not return.
“I’m definitely ready for that to happen, ‘cause I always want to play more minutes,” he said. “Ron was my mentor, he taught me a lot of things, and I’d love to continue to play with him. But if a trade is going to happen, it gives me an opportunity.”
Guard Fred Jones did not play because of a sprained left ankle, and Stephen Jackson sprained his right thumb in the first half and did not play after halftime. Both are expected to return against the Clippers.
The Clippers are coming off Tuesday’s 99-85 loss to the New Jersey Nets. Los Angeles has been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, but has lost four of five since a season high-tying four-game winning streak.
Three of those defeats have come on the road, where the Clippers have won just five games this season.
Elton Brand had 21 points and 13 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the season, and Cuttino Mobley added 15 points for Los Angeles. Phoenix, which beat Seattle 112-83 on Tuesday, moved into a tie with the Clippers for first place in the Pacific Division.
“It’s frustrating, because we were turning the ball over and they got layup after layup, easy shot after easy shot,” Brand said.