11-06-2006, 12:10 PM
One player had a rough preseason. The other was supposed to see little playing time.Comment (http://www.topix.net/forum/link/thread?forum=nba/indiana-pacers&artsig=67446c4c97)
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11-06-2006, 12:22 PM
Unlikely guard combo lifts Pacers in 1st week
Jasikevicius, Armstrong deliver for Indiana in 4th quarter against Knicks
By Mike Wells
One player had a rough preseason. The other was supposed to see little playing time.
It turns out those two players -- point guards Sarunas Jasikevicius and Darrell Armstrong -- were the Indiana Pacers' two best players off the bench in the opening week of the season.
And they're doing it while playing together in the backcourt.
"Those guys have made a connection on the court," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "They play off each and they are tied together on the same wave length. It's a real plus for us."
Jasikevicius and the 38-year-old Armstrong are fourth and fifth in team scoring at 13.7 and 11.0 points a game, respectively. Armstrong has regained the 3-point shooting touch he said he lost because he quit looking for his shot the past couple of seasons. He has made a team-high 67 percent (8-of-12) of his 3-point attempts. He made 11 last season.
"I like playing with any point guard, to be honest," Armstrong said. "It's fun playing with the point guard because I can get out and run. I don't have to go back and get the ball. When you play with other point guards, it's easier to play like that because I know if he penetrates he's looking for me or other guys for shots and I'm doing the same thing."
The two played well enough in the Pacers' 109-95 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday that Carlisle left them in for almost the entire fourth quarter in place of starters Jamaal Tinsley and Stephen Jackson. Jasikevicius and Armstrong combined for 29 points against the Knicks, 21 of those coming in Indiana's 32-point fourth quarter.
"We found something we liked and we stuck with it the whole fourth quarter. I'm just glad Rick did that," Jasikevicius said.
Carlisle is following the trend of other teams in the league by playing two point guards together. The Pacers' first three opponents -- Charlotte, New Orleans and New York -- started two point guards or played them together at some point.
"There's a premium on play-making in this league," Carlisle said. "It's going to continue to go that way. If you have guys that can make plays and they're both point guards, it pays dividends, because offensively it helps your game flow better."
Jasikevicius, who struggled in the preseason, has gone from saying he didn't like playing shooting guard last season to having plays called for him off the ball this season. Carlisle said the team runs some plays where Jasikevicius and Armstrong have specific roles as the point guard and shooting guard, but they're interchangeable.
"I just want to be able to make the plays," Jasikevicius said. "I want to be put in some pick-and-rolls and some offensive situations where I can make plays for other people. That's what I can do for this team."
O'Neal's block party
Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal, who had five blocked shots against the Knicks, is second in the league in that category at 3.7 per game.
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