Can't defeat the Pacers
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97
103
New York @
97 - 103
Record: 2-3
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Once again, the ailing and short-handed Indiana Pacers built a big lead. This time, they were able to hold off New York's furious comeback.

Jermaine O'Neal had 33 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, Ron Artest marked his 25th birthday with 22 points and Stephen Jackson added 19 as the Pacers fought off fatigue and beat the Knicks 103-97 Saturday night.

"It's always hard to play the minutes we've been playing, but we don't have any choice,'' O'Neal said. "Our focus is to win as many games as we need to win to get to the championship. We don't care who's on the court as long as we have five to eight guys dressing.''

It was Indiana's fourth game in five nights, and because of injuries the Pacers had only 10 players available and used just eight, with all five starters logging at least 38 minutes.

Once again, as they did in an overtime loss at Philadelphia the night before, the Pacers built a seemingly comfortable lead in the first half. This time, they stayed in front, but it wasn't easy.

A basket and free throw by Stephon Marbury cut Indiana's one-time 21-point lead to 10 late in the third quarter. The Pacers built it back to 83-67 going into the final period, but Marbury had 11 of his season-high 37 points in the fourth quarter, including a basket that pulled New York to 101-95 with under a half-minute to go.

Artest then iced the game with two free throws before Jerome Williams scored for New York at the buzzer.

"We can't make no excuses,'' Jackson said. "We have our two all-stars (O'Neal and Artest) and we have enough guys to sub in and sub out, so we have to play. We can't really think about who we don't have.''

Reggie Miller, Jeff Foster and Anthony Johnson are on the injury list for Indiana, while Jonathan Bender, Fred Jones and Scot Pollard didn't play for the second straight game because of a variety of other ailments.

"With J.O. and Ron out there, physically able to play, there's no excuse why we shouldn't win,'' Jackson said. "We're 5-2. We're happy with that, but we know there's a lot of room to improve, and we will.''

Nazr Mohammed added a season-high 20 points for the Knicks.

O'Neal, who had a career-high 39 points in the overtime loss at Philadelphia, scored 12 in the first quarter against the Knicks. He hit five straight baskets at one stretch, including one that gave the Pacers the lead for good at 19-17 midway through the period.

New York still trailed by just two, however, before a 3-pointer by James Jones at the buzzer gave Indiana a 37-32 first-quarter lead.

Artest scored seven points, including two baskets on goaltending calls, and New York missed its first eight shots during a 14-2 Indiana run that appeared to break the game open at the start of the second quarter. Indiana's biggest lead was 61-40 before the Knicks began their comeback.

"If we had folded, I would have been mad, but we got back in there and made some defensive adjustments,'' Knicks coach Lenny Wilkens said of the double-teaming of O'Neal. "O'Neal has developed into a great offensive player, and if you let him get under the basket, we're in trouble. The focus was to meet him quicker, and in the second half we did a better job.''

Notes
The start of the game was delayed about 15 minutes because of a faulty shot clock on the east basket. The arena crew replaced the entire goal and officials extended the pregame warmups before tipoff. ... Indiana's 63 points in the first two periods matched its season high for one half, but that included the third and fourth quarters and two overtimes in the opener at Cleveland. ... Indiana has won eight straight at home against the Knicks. ... Marbury's 37 points gave him 12,005 for his career. ... The game was the first of a four-game road trip for the Knicks. ... The only subs for the Pacers were Jones, Eddie Gill and rookie David Harrison.

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