25-point quarter boosts Miller's status

June 03, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- For Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller, the sensation of his 25-point fourth quarter against the New York Knicks on Wednesday was akin to one of those high-tech virtual reality arcade games where you don't just play them, you feel them.

"Everything felt like it was in slow motion," Miller said. "You see the play before it happens. You read the defense as soon as the ball comes to you.

"You know what the defender is going to do, even before he does it."

And you fill the nets from long range, like it's a layup. That's just what Miller did as he came through with one of the clutch playoff performances in NBA history in leading the Pacers to a 93-86 win that has the Knicks on the verge of elimination in this Eastern Conference final series. Indiana leads the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and can eliminate the Knicks tonight at Market Square Arena, where the Pacers are 6-0 in the playoffs.

The final line on Miller: a playoff career-high 39 points, including the 25-point fourth period where he hit an NBA-record five three-pointers, shooting 5-for-5 from beyond the arc. Miller Time came just in time for a series that, making its first network prime-time appearance, had been marred by sloppy play that had threatened to turn off even the die-hard NBA purists.

"He was in the Twilight Zone," said Derek Harper, in a stunned New York locker room after Miller had made a 12-point Knicks fourth-quarter lead disappear. "Reggie turned it around for them. He carried the team on his back."

It was a lot of weight for the spindly 6-foot-7, 185-pound Miller, a first-round pick (11th overall) by the Pacers in 1987. In this era of sculpted athletes such as Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson, Miller's pencil-thin frame makes him seem the unlikeliest NBA superstar.

But the seventh-year pro out of UCLA -- previously known as either Cheryl Miller's little brother, or one of the game's biggest trash-talkers -- may have reached superstar status with Wednesday's game.

"He was unbelievable," teammate Rik Smits said. "I've never seen anyone play like that before."

In a league overrun with high-flying dunkers, Miller's simply the best pure shooter around. Unlike some pure shooters who have to spot up, Miller has an uncanny ability to catch-and-shoot, which allows him to shoot off the run after maneuvering through the maze of picks that his teammates set.

Knicks guard John Starks had done a good job of containing Miller through the first three quarters Wednesday, but he was on the bench when Miller started his barrage 50 seconds into the final period with a three-pointer over Hubert Davis. Greg Anthony was later victimized.

By the time Starks checked back into the game, Miller was on a roll, having hit two three-pointers and another long-range jumper. Starks could do nothing but chase Miller.

Before beating the Knicks Wednesday, the Pacers had lost 11 straight in New York, and 31 of their previous 33. Now the series shifts to Market Square Arena, where the Pacers have won their six playoff games by an average of 15.7 points.

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