That someone was Al Harrington.
Harrington scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, leading Indiana to a 91-78 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
“When you have guys you know can step up, I had a lot of confidence our team would be able to come through tonight,” Carlisle said.
The versatile, 6-foot-9 Harrington gave the Pacers the kind of energy and low-post presence they’re used to having from O’Neal.
“I’m always ready,” Harrington said. “I’m the player on this team who has to go in and do whatever.”
Six of Harrington’s points came during a crucial stretch during the third quarter after the Clippers rallied to take the lead.
The Pacers led 47-42 at halftime, but two jumpers by Keyon Dooling and a dunk by Richardson helped give the Clippers a 54-53 lead with 7:30 to go in the third.
With O’Neal cheering his teammates on from the bench, Harrington responded with six straight points for a 59-54 lead, and the Pacers never looked back.
“We didn’t do a good enough job on Harrington in the post,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “He had a good night tonight.”
Dooling led the Clippers with 18 points and five assists.
The Pacers started the fourth quarter with a 15-3 run to put away the Clippers, who shot 1-for-12 during the stretch.
O’Neal missed the game with tendinitis in his right knee. His status is day-to-day.
O’Neal has voiced concern this season that competing with the U.S. national team the last three summers is starting to take its toll on his body. He also missed time in the preseason with a back injury, another nagging problem O’Neal attributes to his active offseasons.
“We’re not going to rush this guy back,” Carlisle said. “We’d love to have him, but it’s important that he’s right.”
The Pacers didn’t miss a beat without O’Neal against the Clippers, who came in as the NBA’s highest-scoring team, averaging 102.6 points per game.
The Pacers, who were giving up 83.4 points per game, good for third-best in the league, held the Clippers to 36 percent shooting and a season-low 78 points.
Ron Artest shut down Quentin Richardson, last week’s Western Conference player of the week after averaging 27.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games. Richardson scored 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting against Indiana.
“We just weren’t doing anything right and they were doing everything the right way,” Corey Maggette said. “They were hitting shots, getting good rebounds and attacking the rim.”
Predrag Drobnjak added 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for Los Angeles.
Croshere had 13 points and seven rebounds for Indiana.
The Clippers have never won in Conseco Fieldhouse. Their last win at Indiana was Jan. 8, 1992. … Dooling’s 18 points tied a career best. … Drobnjak’s previous high for rebounds was 10 against Toronto on Dec. 26, 2002, with Seattle. … Dunleavy got a technical in the second quarter for arguing an offensive foul call on Bobby Simmons. … The Pacers shot a season-best 88.5percent from the foul line (23-of-26).