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NBA

Croshere energizes Pacers

By Associated Press
Published May 29, 2004

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Mr. Inflexible dusted off Mr. Forgotten, and the Pacers evened the East final with their best all-around effort of the series.

Austin Croshere made his first start in more than two years and scored 14 Friday night, providing Indiana with a much-needed extra offensive option in an 83-68 victory over Detroit.

Getting off to a rare good start and sustaining a respectable shooting percentage, the Pacers tied the series at 2, avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season and regained homecourt advantage.

Coach Rick Carlisle pulled a surprise by turning to Croshere in place of Jeff Foster - a move even more stunning because it was made by a coach whose resistance to change has been cited as one of his negative personality traits.

Croshere, who averaged five points this season - his sixth in the league - and hadn't contributed much to the Pacers since the 2000 NBA Finals, ended the first half with a 3-pointer and began the second with another to put the Pacers ahead 52-39.

Moments later, he was left wide open at the 3-point line. As Pistons fans let out a collective groan, Croshere made the shot for a 17-point lead that eventually grew as large as 23.

Detroit fans booed a bit over the remainder of the third quarter.

After struggling to score throughout most of Games 2 and 3, it was a different story for Indiana in Game 4.

Foster had scored just four points in 67 minutes over the first three games in the series. The addition of another outside shooting threat prevented the Pistons from sending extra defenders into the paint, and everyone on the Pacers benefited.

Ron Artest scored 20 for Indiana, Reggie Miller added 15 and Jermaine O'Neal had 12. Artest also had 10 rebounds and four assists.

After shooting no better than 34 percent in the first three games, Indiana finished at 46 percent.

Artest made four of his first five shots and ended the first quarter with 12 points as Indiana opened a 29-17 lead.

The Pacers got a scare late in the quarter when O'Neal landed awkwardly going for a rebound and mildly sprained his left knee. Detroit had a 7-0 run early in the second quarter while O'Neal went to the locker room for a checkup.

He returned less than two minutes into the quarter and spurred the Pacers to a 6-0 run as the Pistons began getting sloppy with the ball and turning it over.

Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley, hampered by knee, hamstring and ankle injuries to his left leg, sat out the fourth quarter.

McGRADY CAN'T WAIT: Tracy McGrady would rather quickly relocate to another team this summer than slowly rebuild with Orlando.

McGrady told the Orlando Sentinel that if the Magic can't significantly improve next season by making deals - moving its No. 1 pick for veteran players, for example - he would "probably have no choice" but to push for a trade in mid July to a West team.

And, contrary to reports and rumors, it's not the Lakers or Spurs that McGrady is eyeing. He said from his south Orlando home that Houston likely would be his first choice should he leave the Magic.

General manager John Weisbrod says the Magic will continue to do everything it can to keep McGrady.

McGrady, who turned 25 Monday, is still torn. He talks about leaving, but in the next breath becomes emotional, and says he really doesn't want to go anywhere.

"I don't want to leave Orlando, not at all," he said. "Man, I'd love to win here more than anything."

But he also is determined not to go through another losing season, much less champion a rebuilding effort. "I can't do that again. I'm just sick sitting here having to watch guys in the playoffs," he said. "It just eats me up."

WEST FINAL: The Lakers need just one win in their next three games to advance to the Finals.

If recent history is any guide, they'll only need one attempt.

Los Angeles has mastered the art of the closeout over the last four postseasons, winning 12 straight games when there's a chance to finish a playoff series.

With a 3-1 lead in the West final, the Lakers have another opportunity in Game 5 tonight in Minnesota.

"It gives us confidence that we're very good at closing teams out," Kobe Bryant said. " ... We take a lot of pride in it."

The status of Timberwolves point guard Sam Cassell (back, hip) will be a game-time decision.

HORNETS: The man expected to be Byron Scott's best player next season is one of the coach's biggest fans.

"He's one of the guys I've always liked, especially since he played with the Lakers and Showtime," said All-Star Baron Davis, a Los Angeles native, at the news conference to introduce Scott as coach. "It's just a tremendous honor."

Scott will be paid a little more than $10-million for three seasons.

MINNESOTA 73, WASHINGTON 62: Katie Smith scored 28, including a key 3-pointer late, for host Minnesota. The Mystics got within 62-56 with 1:40 to play then Smith banked in a 3 to restore Minnesota's lead to nine.

CHARLOTTE 63, INDIANA 41: Tammy Sutton-Brown had 16 points and seven rebounds for the host Sting, which held the Fever to a franchise low for points.

SAN ANTONIO 72, SACRAMENTO 63: Shannon Johnson scored 15 and had 12 assists, leading the host Silver Stars.

[Last modified May 29, 2004, 01:00:33]


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