CLEVELAND - Ron Artest got in LeBron James' face and inside his jersey.
Happy birthday, rookie.
Artest pushed around Cleveland's star guard in the second half and Jermaine O'Neal scored 21 points as the Indiana Pacers wrecked James' 19th birthday Tuesday night with a 92-89 win over the Cavaliers.
Artest scored 18 points, none bigger than his 3 with 54.6 seconds left, and held James in check after the first quarter as the Pacers improved to 23-10 - the best record in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
James finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes but he couldn't shake free in the fourth quarter from Artest, who was draped all over him.
Cavs coach Paul Silas felt his talented rookie James was intimidated by Artest.
"Artest is going to test anyone. He's grabbing and holding, and they're letting him get away with it," Silas said. "But LeBron has got to push him off, stand up to him and get in his face, and say, 'If you do it again, we're going to war.' LeBron is not there yet."
James, who came in averaging 27.8 points in his last 10 games, was just 3-for-12 from the field after a 6-for-8 first quarter. He missed all four of his 3-pointers.
However, James didn't complain about Artest bullying him around.
"I love playing the Pacers," he said. "I love playing physical. But this is one team we can't get over the hump on."
The Cavaliers lost their third straight to Indiana this season in part because of 18 turnovers and 10 missed free throws - six in the fourth quarter.
Carlos Boozer, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, posted his fifth straight double-double and 11th of the season for Cleveland, but it wasn't enough. Boozer scored 17 points and made his first career 3-pointer, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out a season-high six assists and blocked two shots for the Cavaliers.
Al Harrington added 17 points for the Pacers, who have beaten the Cavaliers 11 straight times at Gund Arena and eight in a row overall.
Harrington's jumper with 2:52 left was Indiana's first field goal in 4:39 and gave the Pacers an 85-80 lead. Zydrunas Ilgauskas' two free throws got Cleveland within three, and after the Pacers misfired, the Cavs had the ball with a chance to tie it.
However, during a scramble for a loose ball, Artest wrestled the ball from Eric Williams and passed it to Jamaal Tinsley, who fed Harrington for a dunk with 1:47 left that made it 87-82.
"After Ron got the steal, I just ran up the floor and got the easy dunk," Harrington said.
Kevin Ollie's layup made it a three-point game again, but Artest, who says he has ironed out any differences with coach Rick Carlisle, hit his 3 from the left wing to give Indiana a 90-84 lead.
Ollie's jumper got the Cavs back within four, but after an Indiana miss, James clanged a 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds to and O'Neal blocked Eric Williams' shot before hitting two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to ice it.
Artest was back in the starting lineup after being benched at the start of Monday's game by Carlisle for oversleeping and missing a shootaround.
A well-rested Artest, who picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter, scored 11 points in the third period when Indiana's defense put the clamps down, triggering an 18-3 burst that put the Pacers up 76-65 entering the fourth.
Juneau Empire ©2014. All Rights Reserved.