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Pacers diplomatic about big win

OK, the visiting team felt guilty enough about its 24-point win that it made postgame excuses for the home team.

And the Indiana Pacers even did it with straight faces Tuesday night in the Delta Center after slashing the Jazz 84-60, a record-low score for Utah in its own building.

"They had a good team. They played very hard. Even though we won by about 50, it wasn't easy," claimed the Pacers' Ron Artest.

Center Jermaine O'Neal talked about the Jazz's youth. What else? Utah played much of the last quarter with 18-year-old C.J. Miles flanked by fellow rookies Robert Whaley and Andre Owens plus second-year man Kris Humphries, only 20 himself, and the lone veteran, Milt Palacio.

Utah, said O'Neal, "is a very young team playing for a very good coach, a legendary coach (Jerry Sloan), and the Delta Center is always a tough atmosphere to play in."

Coach Rick Carlisle kept himself off the Jazz's bulletin board as well. "You've got to get a little lucky. You don't hold a team to four sub-20 point quarters without them missing some shots they normally make," he said, noting Utah's Gordan Giricek missed the game with a leg injury and Andrei Kirilenko was playing for the first time in several weeks after a high-ankle sprain, "and he wasn't himself completely.

"They're a hard-playing team, and quite frankly, they're one of the teams I really hate playing," said Carlisle in his closest foray into negativity against Utah. "They make you play."

Unlike the Golden State Warriors, who concentrated on taking Jazz center Mehmet Okur out of his game last Friday, the Pacers said they paid no special attention to Utah's top scorer to hold an 18.9-points-per-game player to eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

"Nah, he just did it to himself," said Artest. "He just kinda did it to himself."

He jokingly added, "We were focused on the rookie, No. 34, the lefty (Miles, who scored nine points on 4-for-8 shooting in 13 minutes). He was our main focus. He had nine points."

"We talked about (Okur) a lot," said Carlisle. "(Austin) Croshere and (Danny) Granger made a strong effort, and Memo missed a few shots he normally makes, so we were fortunate."

The 9-4 Pacers, one of the top teams in the East, were perhaps a little careful because they've lost to teams like 2-10 Atlanta recently, and so this game not only gave them a chance to rest their top players going into an encounter tonight at Phoenix but it also represented some improvement.

"We struggled offensively in the first half," Carlisle said, "but we never stopped defending the entire game. That's the sign of a team that's starting to figure some things out. We knew we'd have to have a strong-willed, hard-nosed defensive effort, and on the boards, and we did. To give them only six second-chance points is really almost impossible to do.

"We're doing better. The key thing is to keep building on it."