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able
04-15-2005, 06:05 AM
cincinatti enquirer (http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050415/SPT/504150441/1062)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Pacers find way to keep winning
Team overcomes player losses to clinch playoff spot

By Michael Marot
The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Suspensions, injuries and illnesses threatened to derail every goal the Indiana Pacers set this season.

The team that had the NBA's best record last season and reached the Eastern Conference finals refused to let its season slip away. The Pacers banded together and defied the odds, making the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

"No matter what happens in the playoffs from here on out, this franchise, this organization and myself will be champions," Reggie Miller said after Wednesday's playoff-clinching victory over the New Jersey Nets.

Five months ago, that seemed like only a distant hope.

Commissioner David Stern appeared to strip away the heart of the Pacers' lineup after suspending All-Star Ron Artest for the rest of the season, starter Stephen Jackson for 30 games and All-Star Jermaine O'Neal for 25 (a penalty later reduced to 15) for their roles in the Nov. 19 brawl with Detroit Pistons fans.

Then came the injuries.

O'Neal has missed the last 21 games because of a sprained right shoulder, point guard Jamaal Tinsley hasn't played since late February because of a bruised left foot and Jonathan Bender, expected to be a key reserve, has played in just seven games because of a sore right knee.

Pacers players have missed more than 410 games in all - the equivalent of losing five players for a season. The team has had 28 starting lineup combinations this season, and its projected top unit of Tinsley, Miller, Artest, O'Neal and Jeff Foster has not started.

How did Indiana overcome such obstacles? With a resurgent Miller - who will retire after the season - plus key contributions from virtual unknowns such as Anthony Johnson and Eddie Gill and masterful coaching by Rick Carlisle.

"It's a miracle they've held it together," Detroit coach Larry Brown said.

One day after the brawl, Indiana became the professional version of "Hoosiers" by nearly beating Orlando with a roster of just six players. The home crowd then prodded them on to three straight wins.

That was followed by seven straight losses, and most figured the Pacers were starting to fall apart. By the All-Star break, Indiana was 25-26.

But in the past six weeks, the Pacers have played like contenders. They've won eight of their last nine games and 14 of their last 18 at home, and they need two more road wins to finish with a winning road record for only the fourth time in franchise history.

The 39-year-old Miller has returned to his more youthful form, averaging 20.2 points since O'Neal's injury. Dale Davis, a 36-year-old power forward signed as a free agent, has given Indiana some inside punch, and Johnson, another reserve pressed into a starting job, has averaged 6.8 assists the past 30 games.

Few expected the Pacers to be in this position - fighting for home-court advantage in the first round - and most figured they would be hard-pressed to make the playoffs.

"They are very stable and getting better and stronger," Denver coach George Karl said. "They get Jermaine back soon, and then they I think they can challenge Detroit and Miami."

O'Neal could return for the playoffs - an ominous sign for opponents.

Miami, the Eastern Conference's top seed, is 0-3 against Indiana this season and will try to avoid a sweep when the teams meet Sunday. The defending champion Pistons split their four games with Indiana.

"We're here, we overcame everything," Jackson said. "It definitely feels good to be in the playoffs. Sending Reggie off on a good note is definitely on my mind."

Mourning
04-15-2005, 06:48 AM
:applaud:

Harddrive7
04-15-2005, 07:44 AM
GREAT article!!!! That's just what I needed this morning. Have a wonderful day all!!!

3ptmiller
04-15-2005, 08:39 AM
GREAT article!!!! That's just what I needed this morning. Have a wonderful day all!!!

Great read, thx able :cool:

Ragnar
04-15-2005, 10:33 AM
Now if I can just figure out where that glass slipper went.

Unclebuck
04-15-2005, 10:37 AM
The road record is the most amazing thing to me

Bball
04-15-2005, 11:47 AM
Now, someone remind them the job isn't done yet....

-Bball

Anthem
04-15-2005, 12:24 PM
Now, someone remind them the job isn't done yet....

-Bball

Does it look like they've forgotten?

Come, bball, join the :sunshine: