INDIANAPOLIS — Jermaine O’Neal claims he’s not angry with the Indiana Pacers for trading him before last season.
He might have fooled his old fans. He had 22 points and 12 rebounds against his former team, and the Miami Heat beat the Pacers 96-83 on Friday night.
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O’Neal was the Pacers’ best player before the franchise fell apart following the brawl between Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans in 2004. The Pacers traded O’Neal to Toronto before the 2008-09 season as they focused on rebuilding with younger players.
O’Neal says he has moved on.
“I don’t have any animosity with this organization anymore,” O’Neal said. “I told myself that I would let that go, I would close that door, close that chapter.”
Still, he was animated throughout the game, drawing a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a dunk in the second quarter. He said that was more about finally having healthy knees than showing up the Pacers.
“It was a good call,” O’Neal said. “It was a little bit overboard, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to just catch and take off. I’m just showing you guys some of the work I’ve put together this summer.”
O’Neal later smiled when Pacers fans booed him. Dwyane Wade, who led Miami with 32 points, thought the Pacers fans were wrong to treat O’Neal that way.
“Unfortunately, when some players leave a city they get booed, but when you think Indiana Pacers, you think Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal,” Wade said. “He’s one of the guys who helped build this organization, this franchise. He came back today and was very professional about his approach.”
The Heat have won their first two games by a combined 35 points. It was Wade’s first win ever at Indiana, and only the sixth win at Indiana for the Heat in their 22-year history. The Pacers had won 14 straight at home dating to 2001.
“It’s kind of a monkey off our back to finally get a win here,” Wade said. “This Indiana Pacers team is tough with the offense they run, with the movement they have. I’m glad we were able to jump out the way we did and withstand their run. I really saw a lot from my young team today.”
Danny Granger led the Pacers with 22 points, but shot 6 of 20 from the field. Troy Murphy, Solomon Jones and Luther Head each scored 12 points.
Indiana shot 37 percent and made just 4 of 23 3-pointers.
“That’s a rough shooting night,” Granger said. “You have some of those nights, and usually you have to rely on your defense, but we just couldn’t put the game together.”
Granger’s emergence was one reason O’Neal was OK with the Pacers trading him. O’Neal always had said Granger had All-Star potential, and Granger lived up to it by playing in the All-Star game last season.
“Some people here think I quit on them, but I didn’t quit on them,” O’Neal said. “You got a young budding star in Danny Granger, you’ve got to be mature enough to say, ‘OK, my time is over here.’ Reggie Miller did the same thing for me, so why wouldn’t I do the same thing for Danny.”
O’Neal looked like the player who finished third in the league MVP balloting in 2004, and nothing like the one who hobbled through his final years with the Pacers. Friday’s effort followed a 22-point, 12-rebound performance in the season-opening rout of New York. He posted his first consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound efforts since he was a Pacer in December 2007.
Miami led 49-47 at halftime, then O’Neal scored eight points and Michael Beasley added six in a 16-4 run to start the second half that put the Heat up 65-51. Miami led 79-63 at the end of the third quarter.
Head made back-to-back buckets that cut Miami’s lead to 79-69 with 10 minutes to play. The Pacers had numerous chances to cut further into the lead because Miami went cold in the fourth quarter, but the Pacers got no closer than eight points.
The Pacers have opened the season with two double-digit losses while trying to work in some new players.
“We’re still trying to figure each other out,” Granger said. “Honestly, our defense wasn’t that bad. It’s just, offense, I really don’t think we understand each other yet, how everybody plays, what everybody likes to do.”
O’Neal spent extra time chatting with fans after the game. He believes his place in Pacers history is secure.
“I still love the city and I still have my memories here. You can’t take that away,” O’Neal said. “If they want to say who was one of the best players to ever play in this organization, then they have to do it by the numbers. Numbers don’t lie.”
The numbers didn’t lie on Friday, either. Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and Solomon Jones combined for 11 fouls.
“I think our young guys got a lesson,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. “Roy and Solomon really got schooled by Jermaine O’Neal. But they’ll get better by playing guys like that.”
Notes: Hibbert committed two fouls against O’Neal in the first 2:11 of the game. He finished with five fouls in 16 minutes. … The Pacers shot 24 percent in first quarter. … Indiana C Jeff Foster sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and did not return. … Indiana G Mike Dunleavy (knee) and F Tyler Hansbrough (right shin) sat out.