Pacers 107, Magic 92
In a game missing two All-Stars, Ron Artest scored a career-high 35 points in leading the Pacers to a 107-92 win over the Magic on Friday night.
“Jermaine’s out, so everybody had to step up their games—and everybody did,” said Artest, who’s previous scoring best was 32, set last year. “Jeff, Al and I picked up the scoring, and Jeff picked up the rebounding pretty well.”
O’Neal bruised his right knee Monday, but he expects to play Sunday against Miami.
Reggie Miller went scoreless for only the second time in his 17-year career. He took only two shots.
The Magic, losers of seven straight, played without the NBA’s leading scorer. McGrady was sidelined by tendinitis in his left knee, and his condition is day-to-day.
“Guys understood that we were going to have to play like true professionals,” said Lue, whose previous best of 26 points came with Washington in March, 2002.
But Orlando couldn’t overcome 21 turnovers and a defense that allowed 25 shots from point-blank range. The Pacers scored 52 points in the paint and 23 off turnovers.
Artest was 12-for-22 from the field, 3-of-4 on 3-pointers, and made eight of 14 free throws. He had quarters of seven, nine, 10 and nine points. He also had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“The guy always fills up a stat sheet, but I thought tonight his will carried our team,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said.
But his performance should come with an asterisk, as the All-Star forward was guarded most of the night by reserve power forward Drew Gooden.
Gooden started at in McGrady’s absence, as Orlando is experimenting again with whether he and fellow forward Howard can coexist on the floor. The first trial was junked three weeks into the season when the coaches decided Gooden was too slow to play on the perimeter and Howard too small to defend centers.
Apparently, nothing’s changed since November.
Artest repeatedly eluded Gooden, and his spinning layup with 3:18 remaining kicked off a game-breaking run of seven straight points for a 100-87 lead.
“To Drew’s credit, he gave it what he had at that position,” Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. “It was different for him in terms of backcourt coverage.”
Said Artest: “I was just being aggressive.”
Gooden didn’t fare much better on the offensive end against Artest, one of the NBA’s best defenders. He scored six points while taking only six shots.
“He didn’t allow Drew to catch the ball in the prime positions on the floor,” Davis said.
Orlando’s auditions for its 2004-05 roster continued beyond Gooden. Late in the first half, the Magic had four rookies on the floor: Keith Bogans, ReeceGaines, Britton Johnsen and Zaza Pachulia. Howard provided adult supervision.
Gooden’s start was his 15th of the year, but only his second since November. … Gooden was hit with a technical foul for a first-quarter flop while trying to drawn offensive foul. … Pachulia’s nine rebounds tied his career high … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if Orlando continues playing at its current pace and McGrady wins the scoring title, the Magic would have the second-lowest winning percentage for a team with a scoring champion. The 1952-53 Philadelphia Warriors went 12-57 (.174) despite Neil Johnson’sscoring title.