Pacers 93, Knicks 70

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—New York Knicks coach Don Chaney became the latest coach to realize what everyone is quickly finding out—Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest have arrived.

O’Neal had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Artest added 21 points in the NBA-leading Pacers’ 93-70 victory over the Knicks on Thursday night.

“Those two guys are emerging as solid stars in our league, not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end as well,” Chaney said.

O’Neal and Artest fueled an 18-2 run in the third quarter to help the Pacers pull away for their seventh straight victory.

The strong third-quarter performance was a welcome sight for Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, who has stressed improved play in the period after the team’s last loss, against Boston on Nov. 11.

“One thing we’ve been trying to concentrate on is being a very strong third quarter team ever since the Boston game where we had a let down,” Carlisle said. “Tonight was an example of coming out at a high level in the third quarter.”

O’Neal helped put the game away with 4:37 to play in the third, hitting a hook shot in the lane to give Indiana a 69-50 lead.

The star forward, who apologized after criticizing Pacers fans for booing earlier in the season, slapped hands with several fans after hitting the shot.

The two young stars were simply too much for the injury-plagued Knicks, overpowering them with their strength and dominating them with their quickness.

“They’re tough,” Knicks guard Allan Houston said. “They’re the reason that this team is where they are.”

The Pacers took a 78-59 lead into the fourth quarter, allowing Carlisle to rest O’Neal, who has struggled with back problems, and the rest of his starters.

Kurt Thomas had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who lost for the first time in four games. New York was coming off a 97-92 victory in Minnesota on Wednesday night.

The Pacers scored 27 points off 24 Knicks turnovers and held their opponent under 79 points for the eighth time in nine games. They are leading the NBA in fewest points allowed, with opponents averaging 80.7 points.

The Knicks shot just 35 percent from the field in scoring a season-low 70 points. Frank Williams was the only other New York player in double figures, finishing with 11 points.

“You can’t have turnovers and miss shots against a team like that,” Chaney said. “The window’s not that wide. You have to play flawless basketball. That’s why they’re good, they take things away from you.”

The Pacers relied heavily on their two biggest offensive stars after using balanced scoring to beat the Timberwolves on Tuesday.

O’Neal jump-started the Pacers with 12 points and four rebounds in the first quarter, and Artest took over in the second with 11 points and two steals to lead the Pacers to a 52-40 halftime lead.

“I want to win and I know he wants to win,” O’Neal said. “We’re on the same page.”

The Pacers didn’t turn the ball over until the 8:50 mark of the second quarter and had just three turnovers in the half.

Artest also had five steals and credited his supporting cast for the team’s strong start.

“We’re probably being the one-two punch,” Artest said of him and O’Neal “But everybody is feeding off each other. It’s not just me and Jermaine, it’severybody.”

Notes

Pacers G Jamaal Tinsley was not in uniform because of a sore lower back … The Pacers wore throwback jerseys, dating to their 1971-72 and ’72-73 ABA championship teams. … After getting season highs with 18 points and 17 rebounds against the Timberwolves on Wednesday night, Knicks center Dikembe Mutombo had eight points and eight rebounds against the Pacers. … The Knicks shooting woes did not extend to the free-throw line, where they were a perfect20-for-20.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New York
K. Thomas K. Thomas
4-12,  12 Pts
9 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Indiana
J. O'Neal J. O'Neal
12-21,  27 Pts
11 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists