INDIANAPOLIS – Jermaine O’Neal finally stayed out of foul trouble, and that was bad news for the New Jersey Nets.
O’Neal tied a career playoff high with 37 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Nets 107-95 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Anthony Johnson scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Pacers, who will host Game 4 on Saturday.
Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter each scored 25 points for the Nets, but Carter was held without a field goal in the second half.
The Pacers held the Nets to 9-for-38 shooting (24 percent) in the second half.
Foul trouble had limited O’Neal to no more than 32 minutes in each of the first two games. He averaged 13.5 points and five rebounds in those contests, well below his regular-season averages of 20.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. On Thursday, he shot 12-for-15 from the field and 13-for-14 from the line.
O’Neal was fined $15,000 on Thursday for publicly criticizing officials after the Game 2 loss at New Jersey. He has complained throughout the series that New Jersey players have been flopping and getting calls.
On Thursday, O’Neal’s primary defenders were in foul trouble for much of the game. Nenad Krstic fouled out and Clifford Robinson and Jason Collins both finished with five fouls.
Bulls 109, Heat 90
CHICAGO – Instead of looking like the old Shaq, he looked like an old Shaq.
Shaquille O’Neal had one of his worst playoff games, and the Chicago Bulls took advantage, beating the Miami Heat 109-90 on Thursday night in a game that got heated in the end.
The Bulls pulled within 2-1 in this first-round series and host Game 4 on Sunday.
O’Neal finished with eight points and four rebounds. He had one basket through the first three quarters and scored six meaningless points in the fourth, narrowly missing his career playoff low. O’Neal had seven points against Houston on April 19, 2004.
After averaging 24.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the first two games, O’Neal picked up his third foul just over three minutes into the second quarter and spent the rest of the half on the bench.