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Bench comes through for Pacers in win over Bobcats

Nov 2, 2006 - 3:13 AM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- With their big men in early foul trouble, the Indiana Pacers received some timely production from their reserves.

Getting 47 points from their bench, the Pacers stayed close until Jermaine O'Neal and Al Harrington led a fourth-quarter surge that carried them past the Charlotte Bobcats, 106-99, in the season opener for both teams.

O'Neal, Harrington and reserve guard Darrell Armstrong combined to score the first 15 points of the final quarter as the Pacers turned a 77-73 lead into a 92-80 advantage with 7:31 to play. Charlotte never got closer than seven points thereafter.

"Al and I didn't get into the grove we wanted to tonight, but our motto this year is that we're going to do it as a team," O'Neal said. "If we can't get it done, then we have plenty of guys who can pick up the slack and I think our team did a great job with that. It's a totally different atmosphere (from last year)."

O'Neal and Harrington each had more fouls (3) than points (2) in the first half, but the Pacers managed to stick around thanks to Sarunas Jasikevicius, who came off the bench to supply 10 of his 20 points, and David Harrison, who had seven.

Jasikevicius had nine points in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to bring Indiana within 50-49 at halftime.

"The bench was huge for us," Harrington said. "Sarunas and David Harrison came off the bench to gave us huge lifts. They played well and have been working hard to bring that type of energy to us.

"The good thing about the NBA is that there are two halves. In the second half, we were much more aggressive and that was the difference between us winning and losing."

O'Neal took over in the third quarter, scoring 11 of his 20 points to spark a 17-6 run that erased a 55-49 deficit and put the Pacers ahead to stay, 66-61.

"They gave us their best, but in the third quarter our first unit came out and put a good punch on them and they just couldn't react to it," Armstrong said.

Harrington, a former Pacer re-acquired from Atlanta in an offseason trade, collected eight points and nine rebounds for Indiana, which shot 40 percent (35-of-86).

Charlotte forward Emeka Okafor, who played only 26 games last season due to an ankle injury, had a huge game with 19 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.

"I was a little nervous at first," Okafor said. "I was trying to contribute wherever I could, whether it was making a stop on D or scoring on offense."

Charlotte, which shot 47 percent (37-of-78), started well and led the entire first half behind forward Gerald Wallace and rookie Adam Morrison, the No. 3 pick in this summer's draft.

But the Bobcats' offense slowed when Wallace was hit from behind by Danny Granger and went crashing to the floor on a breakaway layup with 3:28 left in the first half.

Wallace, who had nine points at the time, landed hard on his back and clutched his head, remaining on the floor for five minutes as Granger was whistled for a flagrant foul on the play.

Looking somewhat dazed, Wallace missed both free throws before being taken to the locker room. He did not return, suffering from neck and back pain and dizziness.

Morrison had 11 points at halftime, including a 40-footer to end the first quarter, but finished with just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

"The No. 1 goal is for me to win the game. I'm not worried about looks or scoring or anything like that," Morrison said. "I'm a rookie so I have to earn my time before I start calling for shots. I would have liked to have shot better in the second half, but that's the way it goes."

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