Pacers 103, Mavericks 99

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Some might have seen Jermaine O’Neal’s absence as a tough break for the Indiana Pacers. Reggie Miller saw it as an opportunity.

“Everybody has to raise the level of their intensity, especially with the big guy out,” Miller said, referring to O’Neal, who was out with a bruised left knee. “We’ve had depth all year and this is a chance to show everyone all these great, young, talented players on this team. This game was a good indication of that.”

It sure was.

Ron Artest had 20 points, eight steals and eight rebounds to lead six Pacers in double figures in their 103-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

Al Harrington had 17 points and eight rebounds, Austin Croshere scored 16 and Jeff Foster added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers.

Just as important, Indiana was able to keep its composure while the Mavericks came unglued in the second half to improve to 3-0 in games without O’Neal this season.

O’Neal, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, said he expects to miss at least two games, but he hopes to be back for Sunday’s game against Miami.

Dallas was missing a star of its own. Michael Finley, the team’s second-leading scorer, did not dress because of a strained right calf.

The Pacers used their superior depth to their advantage, getting solid contributions from Croshere and Harrington to fill O’Neal’s void.

“Everybody thought without Jermaine we were going to lose,” Harrington said. “But we’re a deep team and we showed it tonight.”

Harrington started for O’Neal and Croshere dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points in an eight-minute span to lift the NBA-leading Pacers (52-19).

His 3-pointer with 4:15 to play gave Indiana a 92-84 lead.

“He hurt us, no question about it,” Mavericks coach Don Nelson said.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points, 13 in the final 5:30 to help the Mavericks mount a comeback. He hit a jumper and a 3-pointer and Shawn Bradley added a baseline jumper to bring Dallas to 97-95 with 45 seconds to play.

Miller, who was just 3-for-8 shooting in the game, answered with a 3-pointer from the corner with 23.7 seconds left to put the game out of reach. Miller finished with 16 points.

“That’s what he does well, hit a clutch 3,” Bradley said.

The Mavericks shot 54 percent in the first half to jump to a 55-48 lead, but couldn’t hold onto the advantage or their cool in the second half.

“We played with a little anger in the second half,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We needed that.”

The difference was, the Pacers used that anger to fuel a third-quarter run. The Mavericks let their anger take them out of the game.

Five Dallas Mavericks were given technical fouls for arguing with the officials.

Referee Ron Garretson showed a short fuse all evening, ejecting Scott Williams and handing one each to Nowitzki, assistant coach Del Harris and Bradley.

Carlisle and Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley also picked up technical fouls.

“In the first half, those things were bothering us,” Carlisle said of the tight officiating. “In the second we were able to stay consistent with our effort.”

Williams drew his first technical at 10:07 of the third quarter after picking up a foul on the defensive end. He continued to jaw at Garretson on the Mavericks’ ensuing possession and received his second technical, which brought the ejection, after Nowitzki was whistled for an offensive foul.

Bradley also got a technical for arguing in the quarter, and while Williams and Bradley were busy arguing with Garretson, the Pacers mounted a 14-6 run. Indiana outscored Dallas 31-19 in the period to take a 79-74 lead.

“We just have to learn to buckle down and play in a physical game,” Nelson said.

Steve Nash had 13 points and 14 assists and Antoine Walker and AntawnJamison each scored 15 for Dallas.

Notes

The Pacers placed G/F Jonathan Bender on the injured list with a strained right shoulder. With O’Neal on the bench for the next few games, the Pacers activated C Primoz Brezec to add more depth to the front court. … NBA commissioner David Stern attended the game. … Tinsley and Bradley also were given flagrant-one fouls, Bradley for elbowing Tinsley and Tinsley for pullingBradley to the floor.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Dallas
S. Nash S. Nash
6-13,  13 Pts
6 Rebs, 14 Assists
 Indiana
R. Artest R. Artest
7-20,  20 Pts
8 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists