Pacers 100, Hornets 93

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson each scored 27 points, Jermaine O’Neal made two key layups in his first game since issuing a challenge to his Indiana teammates, and the Pacers beat the New Orleans Hornets 100-93 Saturday night.

O’Neal hit back-to-back layups from the left block to break away from an 83-all tie and spark a 10-3 run that gave the Pacers control of the game in the final 4 minutes.

O’Neal finished with 22 points in his first game since calling the Pacers “a very average team” and suggesting that he and the team should go “separate ways” at the end of the season “if I can’t take this team to another level.”

O’Neal said he didn’t want the Pacers to “mingle around .500” and then make an early exit from the playoffs. This win snapped a two-game losing streak and kept the Pacers above .500 at 18-16.

The Hornets played from behind most of the night and had tied the game at 83 on Desmond Mason’s hook shot in the lane.

O’Neal followed with his two layups before Rasual Butler got New Orleans back within 87-85 by turning a steal into a right-handed runout dunk. Jeff Foster answered that with two free throws for Indiana and Jamaal Tinsley hit consecutive jumpers to put the game out of reach.

Mason finished with 28 points – his most since being acquired by the Hornets in a trade last preseason – to lead six Hornets in double figures. Jannero Pargo scored 14 points, Marc Jackson and Devin Brown each added 11 and Butler and Tyson Chandler had 10 apiece.

The Hornets, who are without starters Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and David West, have lost 18 of 22.

Tinsley added 13 points for the Pacers.

AP-ES-01-06-07 2259EST

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