Saturday , May , 29 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Pacers win, regain homecourt advantage

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Ron Artest scored 20 points and grabbed 10
rebounds to lead a well-balanced Indiana attack, as the Pacers defeated the
Detroit Pistons, 83-68, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at The
Palace.

Reggie Miller rebounded from two straight poor performances to score 15 points
on 6-of-7 shooting for the Pacers, who regained homecourt advantage by tying
this best-of-seven set at two games apiece with Game 5 scheduled for Sunday at
Conseco Fieldhouse.

Austin Croshere started his first postseason game and scored 14 points for
Indiana, which finally broke the 80-point plateau in this series.

Jermaine O’Neal overcame a sprained left knee suffered in the first half to
score 12 points, grab 13 rebounds and block four shots for the Pacers, whose
starting front court outscored their counterparts by 35 points.

Richard Hamilton had a game-high 22 points and Chauncey Billups sparked a
fourth quarter run by scoring nine of his 21 points during the burst, but a
25-8 Indiana run that bridged the second and third quarters was too much for
the Pistons to overcome.

Trailing by 20 points, 72-52, early in the fourth, Billups scored nine
straight points to draw Detroit within 11 points. Billups’ three with 8:08
left began the run and his jumper from behind the arc 1:16 later capped it and
got his team to 72-61.

However, after Indiana took a timeout, Artest got the Pacers back on track. He
hit consecutive baskets to increase the lead to 76-61 and Miller’s three with
2:02 left capped a 9-4 spurt that put Indiana in the driver’s seat, 81-65.

Miller had gone a combined 5-of-13 in the last two games in this series, going
1-for-4 in Game 3 while missing a number of key shots. However, tonight he
exploded and hit 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

As a team, the Pacers was 32-of-70 from the field for 45.7 percent. In its
last two losses Indiana shot only 34 percent from the field in each game.

“We played well tonight, played good defense,” said Artest. “We started making
shots.”

Detroit’s starting front court of Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun
Prince combined to score only 11 points for the Pistons. Rasheed Wallace had
10 points, with only two coming in the second half, and 10 boards, while Ben
Wallace had just one point and Prince none. Ben Wallace also had 19 rebounds.

“We didn’t come out and hit first,” said Hamilton. “They hit us first. We
didn’t defend every possession like we did in the games we won.”

The Pistons shot only 30 percent from the floor and were outscored 32-14 in
the paint.

“Give them credit. They came in to get a game. They were better prepared,
better coached,” said Detroit head coach Larry Brown. “I’ve got to do a better
job.”

The Pacers began to pull away at the end of the second quarter. Leading by
only five points, 44-39, they scored the final five points of the half to take
a 49-39 lead into the break. Croshere ended the half with a three-pointer that
beat the buzzer.

Croshere didn’t let up to start the third, hitting two three-pointers during
an 8-2 run extended the Pacers’ advantage to 57-41 just two minutes into the
frame.

“I felt it was a chance for us to change the geometry of the game. It was a
little bit of a gamble, because defensively you don’t get the same kind of
activity,” said Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle on his move from Jeff Foster
to Croshere. “Austin changes the game, he stretches the floor, he’s very good
driving the ball. I thought it was a gamble worth taking.”

Detroit got within 57-44 two minutes later, but a 12-2 run over the next five-
plus minutes extended Indiana’s lead to 69-46. Miller had four points during
the spurt and Anthony Johnson capped it with a pair of free throws with 2:43
left, as the Pacers grabbed their largest lead of the game at 23 points and
cruised into the fourth with a 70-50 cushion.

Indiana used strong shooting to build its lead, hitting seven of its first
nine baskets. Meanwhile, the Pistons hit just 3-of-20 baskets to start the
third quarter.

DET IND