SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—After blowing a 15-point lead and falling behind in the fourth quarter, Indiana forward Ron Artest was frustrated.
The Pacers had won the first two contests on a four-game road trip and were coasting toward another win when they let the Utah Jazz rally and take a brief lead. It didn’t last long, though, thanks to Artest scoring eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter of Indiana’s 96-88 win Friday night.
“We were pretty upset about that,” Artest said. “We know how important, how hard it is to get leads, and to give it up on a couple possessions, that’s not characteristic of us. Actually it has been, but we know we can do better.”
Artest, playing in just his third game back from thumb surgery, has scored in double figures each time. He broke an 86-all tie with consecutive layups late in the fourth quarter as Indiana regained control and won its fourth straight.
“That’s a great go-to guy in the fourth quarter because it’s hard to double him and he’s so good and crafty with the basketball,” Indiana’s Reggie Miller “He makes things happen.”
Miller sealed the win on a 3-pointer with 24.9 seconds left and scored 16 points. Jermaine O’Neal had 30 points and 10 rebounds and Fred Jones scored 10 for the Pacers, who have won eight of their last nine.
“We’re really good when we physically pound you on the defensive end and also get out in transition and physically pound you on the offensive end. That’s what makes this team so good and I think that’s been the difference,” O’Neal said. “We’re a very physical team. We have a lot of size and can hurt you on a lot of post ups. We just keep sending them at you.”
Andrei Kirilenko had 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for Utah, which had won four straight.
The Jazz outrebounded the Pacers 42-29, but Indiana made up for it at the free throw line, going 34-for-38. Indiana, which swept the Jazz for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, has won eight of 10.
The Jazz rallied after falling way behind in the third quarter and led briefly in the fourth, but in the end they could not stop Artest and Miller.
“It wasn’t consistent defensively like previous games,” said Kirilenko, who also had six turnovers. “We can’t let, especially in the last two minutes, let them make so many easy layups.”
Raja Bell finished with 17.
Mo Williams, who had eight points for Utah, tied the game at 86-all on two free throws with 3:41 remaining, but Artest made two straight layups to put Indiana back up by four and Miller sealed it with his 3-pointer.
The game was physical and featured several collisions and knockdowns, but no fights broke out. Utah coach Jerry Sloan and Greg Ostertag both got technicals, but once the game got close in the fourth quarter tempers on both sides simmered down.
Miller hit a 3-pointer and O’Neal followed with a basket to put the Pacers up 70-55 early in the third, but Carlos Arroyo helped the Jazz trim the margin to 72-66 by the end of the period. He was fouled on a jumper from the top of the key and converted the three-point play, then hit another jumper in a 9-0 Utah run.
In the fourth, Bell hit a jumper to keep the Jazz within five at 78-73, then Raul Lopez drove for a reverse layup that made it 78-75—the closest Utah had been since the first quarter. After a timeout, Artest missed from way outside, and Kirilenko had a two-handed dunk.
Artest put back an offensive rebound, then Williams answered with a long jumper. The Jazz got a defensive rebound and Kirilenko took it for a one-handed dunk over O’Neal to give Utah its first lead with 5:55 remaining.
It was also Utah’s only lead. O’Neal scored the next four points and Indiana never trailed again.
“We were hoping to get a spurt at the end,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “We know that Utah is a great second-half team. They kept coming atus.”
Jazz guard Gordan Giricek missed the game to be in Orlando with his wife, who gave birth to a baby girl Friday afternoon. … Utah had seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter, but Indiana was 10-for-15 from thefield to take a 35-23 lead.