- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers had Jermaine O’Neal back in the starting lineup last night after missing three games with a sprained knee, looking to end a 10-game losing streak.

The Washington Wizards, however, could do them one better. They had Gilbert Arenas, who has a habit of having big nights when he sees the blue and gold of the Pacers’ uniforms.

Arenas scored 28 of his 35 points in the second half as the Wizards beat the Pacers 112-96 last night at Conseco Fieldhouse. He continued his run of success against the Pacers. He scored 43 points against Indiana on Feb. 7, 2005, and 40 on Nov. 8, 2006.

Antawn Jamison scored 27 points and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who had lost their previous three games by a combined six points. The only negative for Washington was that forward Caron Butler left the game early in the second quarter because of the stiffness in his left knee that has bothered him all week and did not return.

Washington led 53-52 early in the third quarter before Arenas scored eight straight points to give Washington a 61-52 lead with 8:23 left in the period. He scored 20 points in the period to give the Wizards an 84-74 lead at the end of the quarter.

“I was able to get to the free throw line early in the quarter, and that helped me with my stroke,” said Arenas, who shot 7-for-13 from the field in the second half. “I couldn’t seem to find it in the first half. But once I got to the line like I did, it made me feel comfortable.”

Washington shot 51 percent from the field, including 53 percent in the second half.

O’Neal put forth a spirited effort in his return, scoring 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

“This is probably going to be my last interview about what we need to do,” O’Neal said. “We need to play defense.”

The Pacers’ last win was Feb. 21 against Milwaukee. The Pacers can tie their longest losing streak Saturday against Atlanta.

Indiana guard Mike Dunleavy said he has never experienced a losing streak like this.

“When you lose 11 in a row, a losing streak isn’t going to end. You’ve got to snap it,” he said. “It’s going to take a great effort and a great performance from us. Tonight, Washington played well, and they were better than us. Now, we’ve got to find a way to get out of this thing.”

The Pacers were happy with O’Neal’s effort.

“It was great to have Jermaine back out there,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “I wasn’t sure he was going to play. I thought he played exceptionally well considering he’d been out a week.”

Danny Granger scored 19 points, and Troy Murphy added 17 for the Pacers.

Jamaal Tinsley, who scored a career-high 37 points in a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, was one of three injured Pacers inactive for the game.

Tinsley was out with a sore left foot and hamstring. Center Jeff Foster (back spasms) and forward Marquis Daniels (sore left knee) also were inactive.

The lack of depth left the Pacers more vulnerable than usual on the defensive end. Washington, one of the league’s highest-scoring teams, took advantage.

“We seemed to be able to find our shots any time we wanted to, and we were able to make them,” Jamison said. “That is the sign of a team that needed to get a win. I thought we stayed collected and poised against a team that was desperately fighting for a win themselves.”

Indiana cut the deficit to 88-82 on two free throws by O’Neal early in the fourth quarter, but Washington responded with a 12-2 run to put the game out of reach.

Notes — Jamison scored his 12,000th career point in the second quarter. …

It was Arenas’ 24th game with 30 or more points this season. …

Daniels missed his seventh straight game. …

The Pacers had climbed to 29-24 right after the All-Star break. …

O’Neal was called for a technical foul in the third quarter that helped spark a 10-0 Washington run.

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