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Artest's return from suspension sparks Pacers

1/11/2003

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- While the Orlando Magic blew a big lead
down the stretch, Indiana's Reggie Miller stepped up -- as usual --
when the Pacers needed a hero.

Miller's 3-pointer with 24.1 seconds left in regulation capped
Indiana's comeback from a late 10-point deficit and sparked the
Pacers to their third straight win, a 101-97 overtime defeat of the
Magic on Friday night.

Jermaine O'Neal scored 21 points and Ron Artest hit two
game-clinching free throws with 14.6 seconds left in overtime.
Artest, returning from a three-game suspension for destroying a
television camera following a loss at New York on Jan. 3, had 18
points, nine rebounds and four steals.

Al Harrington added 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Orlando led 94-84 with 3:52 remaining in regulation, but Indiana
reeled off 11 straight points to take the lead on Miller's shot.

"It was a designed play for someone else, but it was a broken
play and Al did a great job of penetrating and drawing Darrell
Armstrong, and I knew I was going to be able to shoot over him,''
said Miller, who scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.

"So, I just wanted to float to an open spot and get my feet
set, and the rest is history.''

Added Orlando coach Doc Rivers: "I know a lot of guys that can
get open but I don't know a lot of guys who can keep making those
shots, and Reggie Miller keeps doing it.''

After Miller's shot, the Pacers blew a chance at some breathing
room when Jamaal Tinsley missed two free throws with 16.3 seconds
to go. But they got a break when Armstrong -- an 87-percent foul
shooter -- hit only one of two free throws with 8 seconds left to
tie the game at 95.

Moments earlier, Armstrong had left Miller open for the go-ahead
3.

"I don't know why, but he did it,'' Rivers said of Armstrong's
defensive lapse. "I'm sure he saw something and it's tough to ever
get on this guy because he plays so hard. We all make mistakes.''

But it wasn't just Armstrong having problems for the Magic.
During Indiana's comeback and into overtime, Orlando missed 13 of
14 shots and committed five of its 24 turnovers.

"I told our guys that we ran random pick-and-rolls the entire
game and at the end, we were in iso (isolation) -- on our own,''
Rivers said. "I don't mind the thought that, 'I'm going to win the
game for you,' but against a solid defensive team you can't win the
game by yourself.''

Tracy McGrady had 23 points, a season-high 10 assists and eight
rebounds for the Magic, who fell to the .500 mark for the first
time since Dec. 16.

Pat Garrity had 22 points -- 16 in the third quarter but none
after that -- and Mike Miller added 21.

Grant Hill had nine points in 16 minutes during a brief return
from a left ankle injury that had sidelined him the last six games.
But the tendinitis flared up again, and he went to the locker room
for good early in the third quarter.

"It just got sore so we had to take him out,'' Rivers said.
"It is what it is. I don't know what to say -- it's tough.''

With Hill starting, the Magic looked nothing like the sluggish,
struggling squad that had relied too much on jumpers en route to
dropping three of their last four.

Orlando's offense took advantage of Indiana's turnovers to spark
fast breaks while spreading the floor for a pair of 3s by Garrity.
Barely five minutes into the game, the Magic had 17 points and soon
led by 11.

Indiana rallied against Orlando's reserves, and trailed 47-45 at
the break.

Game notes
Orlando's 29 points in the first quarter was its most in a
period in 4½ games and matched its first-half production the last
time it played the Pacers, a 106-70 loss in Indiana on Nov. 22. ...
Instant replay was used at the end of the second quarter to uphold
Erick Strickland's 3-pointer at the buzzer. ... Orlando
forward-center Steven Hunter soon will be activated from the
injured list, Rivers said before the game. Hunter, 21, tore a right
knee ligament in August. As a rookie last season, he averaged 3.6
points and 1.8 rebounds in 53 games, including 21 starts.