INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—With two of his top three scorers on the bench— Jermaine O’Neal with foul trouble and Al Harrington with an injury—Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle needed someone to step in offensively.
Up stepped Fred Jones.
Jones scored a career-high 18 points to lead the Pacers to a 103-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
“Fred Jones played a key role in this game,” Carlisle said. “His contribution was vital.”
Harrington had a strong first half before leaving with a bruised right cheekbone, scoring nine points on 4-of-4 shooting with three assists as the Pacers built a 52-35 lead.
That’s when the Pacers’ depth came into play.
The Hawks rallied in the third quarter behind Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who scored 10 of his 19 points in the quarter, but Jones countered with 13 points in the fourth as the Pacers were able to increase the lead with O’Neal in foul trouble and Harrington out.
“He loves to go right and I don’t think we took that away from him all night,” Atlanta’s Dion Glover said of Jones. “He played well tonight.”
O’Neal finished with 20 points, including seven in a row midway through the fourth to give Indiana a 91-75 lead.
X-rays were negative on Harrington, Indiana’s third-leading scorer with 13.5 points a game. He collided with Hawks guard Stephen Jackson under the basket shortly before halftime and clutched his face as he fell to the floor.
With both scorers out, Jones became the aggressor on the offensive end, driving hard to the basket on several occasions and hitting an open 3-pointer in the first 4:30 of the final period.
Carlisle said he hopes it’s a sign of things to come.
“Fred Jones can do things on the court that none of our other players can do—get by people, elevate,” Carlisle said. “We need his contributions on a nightly basis.
Making shots was a welcome development for Jones, who entered the game shooting 31 percent from the field—including 4-for-21 from 3-point range— good for second-worst among the Indiana regulars.
“I’ve been looking at that shooting percentage and having a competition with Scot Pollard at the bottom of the list,” Jones said. “Tonight I shot the ball with confidence. I knew everything that left my hand was going in.”
Jones shot 5-for-9 from the field—2-for-3 on 3-pointers—and made all six free throws.
“I told him earlier this week that the only thing that matters is the next shot and the next play,” Carlisle said. “Tonight he hit a couple of shots and got going. He was huge.”
Jason Terry had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists and Glover added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Hawks, who lost their sixth straight road game.
The Hawks didn’t score a field goal for the first 4:11 of the game, falling behind 10-1. They shot 14 percent through the first seven minutes as Indiana built a 15-3 lead.
“The start of the game set the tone,” Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said. “You’re playing the best team in the East at their place, it was too big of a hole to dig out of.”
Things weren’t much better in the second, when the Pacers opened with a 10-2run to take a 35-19 lead. ^Notes: Both teams sported throwback uniforms. The Pacers wore home whites from their 1971-72 and ’72-73 ABA championship teams, while the Hawks wore a squint-inducing bright green outfit from “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s days back in 1971. Harrington, a noted collector of throwback jerseys, said he has a green Maravich jersey but has only worn it once because “it’s too much of a distraction.” … Miller passed Oscar Robertson for 10th on the career minutesplayed list. He has logged 43,908 minutes in his 17-year career.