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CAVALIERS Artest ignores lip; Pacers enjoy final word



Published: Sat, February 15, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jermaine O'Neal had 28 points and Brad Miller 25 in the 107-96 victory.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Ron Artest wasn't going to let some late-game jabbering by Cleveland send him into a mental meltdown. Instead, a calm Artest simply walked away hoping to show he's a changed man.

Jermaine O'Neal scored 28 points and Brad Miller had 25 Tuesday as the Indiana Pacers opened the second half of the season with Artest back in the lineup and Coach Isiah Thomas on the sidelines in a 107-96 victory over Cleveland.

Artest scored 11 points in his first game since Jan. 27. More importantly, he walked away from the taunts of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jumaine Jones in the final minutes.

Artest, who already has been suspended seven games this season for his behavior, felt Ilgauskas and Jones were trying to bait him into another incident.

Part of the game

"I had a sense of that and I'm glad I caught on to that," Artest said. "Even if they weren't trying to bait me, I didn't like the fact they got in my face. But that's part of the game. I do the same thing."

Artest completed a four-game suspension and Thomas had served a two-game suspension. Even during the All-Star break, the pair were making news. Thomas, who coached the East, angered Ilgauskas by playing him only four minutes during Sunday's All-Star game.

Artest was erroneously reported to be involved in an altercation with Houston's James Posey at an NBA Players Association party in Atlanta. Turns out, Artest was at Disney World.

"I'm not really sure where that came from. I was having a good time," Artest said.

That good time extended onto the court, thanks to Jamaal Tinsley who led Indiana's fast-breaking offense with 17 points and five steals.

The Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, closed to 99-92 following a one-handed dunk by Ricky Davis.

It was 102-94 when Artest leapt over Ilgauskas while going after a loose rebound. Ilgauskas took exception to the contact and said some words to Artest.

Then, on Indiana's inbounds pass, Jones tried to antagonize Artest, but he wouldn't bite, putting his hand in front of his face in ignoring them.

"When people come into the game saying 'Just bait him and he'll unravel,' what they're saying is 'The only way to beat him is to bait him,' " Thomas said.

Jones led the Cavs with 25 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including 5-for-5 from 3-point range. Davis scored 23 and Ilgauskas had 18 points and 12 rebounds.




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