Thursday , Mar , 18 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Pacers become first NBA team with 50 wins

Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) – Ron Artest scored 21 points and Reggie
Miller added 18, as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers,
80-71, at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Al Harrington chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds for Indiana, which has
won eight of its last nine games and became the first team to reach 50
victories this season. Jermaine O’Neal collected 10 points and 10 boards in
the win.

Zach Randolph paced Portland with 16 points. Damon Stoudamire netted 14 points
and Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 12 for the Trail Blazers, who managed only eight
points in the fourth quarter and saw their four-game winning streak come to an

“Our team defense in the second half swarmed,” said Indiana head coach Rick
Carlisle. “We were able to keep (Randolph) from getting some good looks, and
that’s the key to beating Portland.”

The Pacers opened the fourth quarter with a 10-3 spurt, capped by Anthony
Johnson’s jumper, to take a 70-66 lead.

Portland then scored the next five points to regain the advantage with 5:03
left. However, the Trail Blazers would not score again.

Meanwhile, Indiana closed the game with a 10-0 burst, highlighted by three-
pointers from Artest and Miller, to post the nine-point victory. The Trail
Blazers were only 2-of-13 from the floor in the final period.

“They made the shots they had to make down the stretch of the game,” Portland
head coach Maurice Cheeks said. “Their defense was great. That was it. That
was the game.”

The Pacers took control early, scoring 12 of the first 16 points of the game.
Indiana continued to pour it on and stretched the advantage to 27-12 on
Harrington’s jumper with 2:04 left in the opening quarter.

The Pacers matched their 15-point lead twice more in the period and led 31-18
after 12 minutes.

Portland then battled back. The Trail Blazers used runs of 7-0 and 9-0 in the
second quarter to eventually knot the contest at 37-37 with 2:40 remaining in
the first half.

The rest of the stanza was tight and ended with Indiana clinging to a 43-42
advantage. The Pacers made just 6-of-23 shots from the field in the second
period and were outscored 24-12.

Portland received baskets from Randolph and Stoudamire to begin the third
quarter and held a 46-43 lead. The Trail Blazers later extended their
advantage to five points at 63-58 on a pair of free throws by Theo Ratliff
with 48.8 seconds remaining in the period.

Harrington then connected on a jump shot to cut the deficit to three entering
the final period.

The Pacers have won five in a row at home and improved to 26-6 as the host
this season. Indiana improved to 50-17 on the season. It marks the third
consecutive 50-win campaign for Carlisle.