Palacio steps up to spark comeback

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Raptors guard Milt Palacio proved last night that there is life without Rafer Alston.

Alston, the team's No.1 point guard, served the second game of a two-game suspension last night and the pressure fell on backup Palacio to get the job done running the offence for Toronto against the Indiana Pacers.

In the first half at the Conseco Fieldhouse, it appeared as though Palacio, who is in his second year with the team, was going to be a washout, managing just three points and two assists, while turning the ball over five times.

But in the second half, the former Colorado State star stepped up in a big way, adding 10 more points, six rebounds and five assists and came close to picking up his first career triple-double.

But more important than his stats in a dramatic, come-from-behind, 98-97 Raptors victory was the message he sent to his teammates, that he'll be there down the road if Alston is sidelined again, either because of injuries or as a result of reoccurring discipline problems.

"That's the biggest thing," Palacio said. "Sam and I talked, and that's the biggest thing I told him, 'I'm going to do everything I can do. I'm not going to change my game and try to do anything outside of my game to make up for Rafer.' "

As for his phoenix-like transformation in the second half, Palacio said it wasn't any words of wisdom from coach Sam Mitchell that got his game untracked, adding that his mindset heading into the final 24 minutes was to just play hard and take care of the ball.

"I just felt that it starts with the point guard and if I pick up a little bit and start playing hard and start pushing the ball, the guys would follow," he said.

Palacio has been averaging 4.9 points, 3.3 assists and 18 minutes a game.

Stephen Jackson led the Pacers' attack with 18 points while superstar power forward Jermaine O'Neal was limited to only 10 shots and 15 points.


Videos

Photos