Jermaine O'Neal got exactly what he wanted last night, and it had nothing to do with scoring a career and NBA season-high 55 points.
O'Neal's dominating performance delivered the Indiana Pacers' fourth win in a row, a 116-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Indianapolis.
The All-Star has made an immediate impact since an arbitrator reduced his 25-game suspension for fighting with Detroit fans to 15 games, with Indiana going 4-1.
"What I'm happy about is we've won four in a row," said O'Neal, who also had 11 rebounds. "I tip my hat off to my team. They put me in position, that's what this team is all about."
O'Neal's 55 bested Allen Iverson's 54 points Dec. 18, also against the Bucks. In his five games back, O'Neal is averaging 29.4 points and 10.6 rebounds to help the Pacers dig out from a rough December that included a seven-game losing streak.
He shot 18 for 28 from the field and 19 of 25 from the line, just missing George McGinnis's franchise record of 58 points, set while the Pacers were in the ABA in 1972. O'Neal's 25 free throw attempts were a franchise record.
"It just was one of those wonderfully enchanting nights for our team and for him," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
The night belonged to O'Neal from the opening tip. He scored the Pacers' first 14 points en route to 29 in the first half, dominating a Bucks' front line that lost center Dan Gadzuric to back spasms in the first quarter.
"For the most part, it was the Jermaine O'Neal show," the Bucks' Michael Redd said. O'Neal scored 19 points in the first, 10 in the second, 18 in the third quarter and capped his stellar night with 8 in the fourth to hold off the Bucks.
Suns 122, Timberwolves 115 -- Amare Stoudemire scored 34 points before his ejection to help Phoenix overcome Kevin Garnett's career-high 47 points and beat skidding Minnesota.
The Timberwolves trailed by 19 midway through the fourth before rallying to within 5 with a little more than a minute left. They lost for the seventh time in 10 games.
Wizards 112, Nets 88 -- Larry Hughes matched his season high with 33 points and host Washington made a franchise-record 14 3-pointers.
Hughes had seven assists and five steals to lead the Wizards, who got 3-pointers from seven players. Gilbert Arenas and Jarvis Hayes each made three as Washington surpassed its previous mark of 12, set Nov. 5, 2003, against Dallas.
Spurs 100, Lakers 83 -- Bruce Bowen scored a career-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers, and helped limit Kobe Bryant to 17 points in host San Antonio's victory.
San Antonio matched its franchise record by making 15 3-pointers. The defense-oriented Spurs held the Lakers to just 32 points in the first half.
Kings 105, Knicks 98 -- Maurice Evans came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points for visiting Sacramento.
Chris Webber scored 22 points, Peja Stojakovic had 21, Mike Bibby added 19 and Brad Miller 16 for the Kings, who
won for the eighth time in their last nine road games.