Tuesday, October 12, 2004

MUNCIE, Ind. — After spending a long, frustrating season with the lowly Atlanta Hawks, Stephen Jackson was eager to play for a winner. It showed last night.

Jackson looked sharp in his debut for Indiana, scoring 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting to lead the Pacers to an 85-84 win over the Washington Wizards in the preseason opener for both teams.

“I was just happy to be in the blue and white,” said Jackson, acquired in an offseason trade that sent Al Harrington to the Hawks.

Jackson got the Pacers off to a quick start with 10 points in his first 10 minutes, and little-known free agent Randy Holcomb finished the Wizards off.

Holcomb tipped in a rebound as the clock expired for the winning basket.

“It just felt good to be in the right place at the right time,” Holcomb said.

His good fortune spoiled the homecoming of former Indiana University star Jared Jeffries.

On Washington’s previous possession, Jeffries tipped in a miss by Michael Ruffin with 9.7 seconds to play for an 84-83 lead.

But Indiana’s Eddie Gill drove the lane and missed a high-arching layup, and Holcomb came from the backside to tip it in for the win.

“I wish it would have played out a little differently,” Jeffries said, shaking his head and smiling.

He was in high demand after the game, signing autographs for many of the fans at Worthen Arena on the campus of Ball State University.

“It was good to get home,” Jeffries said.

Jackson started for Ron Artest, who watched the game after missing two practices because he was attending his grandmother’s funeral.

Jermaine O’Neal also missed the game for Indiana with a sprained left foot.

A slimmed-down Brendan Haywood had 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Washington. Haywood’s numbers would have been even more impressive had he not gone 3-for-11 from the free throw line.

Washington made just 14 of 32 (49 percent) foul shots on the night.

“We’re a young team,” Jeffries said. “We still have a lot to work on, but we did some good things tonight.”

Pacers rookie center David Harrison looked good in his NBA debut, scoring 14 points in 24 minutes. He scored 12 in the fourth quarter, including a nifty three-point play that gave the Pacers a 78-72 lead.

Washington used tough defense from Gerald Fitch to fuel an 8-0 run that put the Wizards ahead 80-78.

Fitch hit a jumper, then got a steal and a layup in the spurt.

Larry Hughes had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Wizards.

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