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O'Neal, Armstrong lead Pacers over Hawks

Jan 23, 2007 - 5:10 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Jermaine O'Neal certainly did his part to help the Indiana Pacers break out of their slump.

O"Neal scored 22 points and Darrell Armstrong added 16 as the Indiana Pacers opened uo a big halftime lead and held off the Chicago Bulls, 98-91.

The Pacers, who improved to 16-1 in their last 17 home games against the Bulls, snapped a season-high four-game losing streak.

"I can still pick up at half court," Armstrong said. "I can still do the things I used to do, I just don't look to score as much. I don't have to, because that's not my role anymore. My role is to put pressure on the ball, get other guys the ball, and knock down open shots. That's my role."

"There comes a point in every game where, for our team, going small is a viable option," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "We've played that way often and in the past. We've come back in a lot of games like that, and this might have been one of those games where I waited too long."

Indiana led, 27-23, after one quarter, but pulled away by outscoring the Bulls, 33-20, in the second quarter.

O'Neal started a 15-4 run with a jumper with 3:20 left to give the Pacers a 47-39 lead and Mike Dunleavy's two free throws with 31 seconds left stretched the lead to 60-43 at the half.

The Bulls, who only shot 38 percent in a 95-85 loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday, connected on 38.5 percent (15-of-39) from the floor in the first half.

Chicago made an 11-2 run at the end of the third quarter to pull within 77-71 heading into the final period. Ben Gordon scored nine points in the run, which was capped by his 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left in the quarter.

"We played a lot harder in the second half than we did in the first half," Gordon said. "If we would have had that same effort and energy from the start, it would have been a different outcome."

Armstrong also finished with eight rebounds and 10 assists.

"That's what he (Armstrong) has done his whole career," O'Neal said. "That's what we expect out of Darrell. What he did tonight wasn't a surprise at all to me. If I said I was surprised, that would be a slap to his career."

Dunleavy and Troy Murphy, who the Pacers acquired in an eight-player trade with the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, finished with 15 and seven points, respectively.

Gordon, who only had seven points in the first half, led Chicago with 31 points while Luol Deng finished with 18.

"I thought we fought hard down the stretch," Deng said. "I think our defense is our problem, and that was the difference in the game. Our offense is fine."

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