Miller carries Pacers over Bullets Guard scores final 11 in 99-93 Indiana win

March 28, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- There were just under five minutes left in a tie game between the Washington Bullets and the Indiana Pacers, and with Reggie Miller having a ho-hum game, several fans seated near the home bench were all over the Pacers guard.

Whether the talk woke up Miller, nobody knows. But he put together an assortment of jumpers in the final minutes, scoring Indiana's last 11 points -- and mouthing off all along the way -- to lead the Pacers to a 99-93 win.

Miller would finish the game with 35 points, and provided commentary to the courtside fans after each of his key baskets. Center Rik Smits added 27 points for the Pacers.

Washington got 29 points and 12 rebounds from Juwan Howard, and fought back from a seven-point deficit in the final quarter. But the Bullets were never able to get over the hump in seeking their third straight victory. They also failed in a bid to either pick up ground or keep pace with the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Bullets were having difficulty with their offense in the fourth quarter and fell behind 82-75 after a layup by Mark Jackson with 7: 27 left.

Washington than put together an 11-4 run -- getting seven points from Tim Legler, and four from Howard. And after Howard scored on a jumper with 4: 57 left, the Bullets had tied the game at 86.

But then a hook shot by Smits gave the Pacers an 88-86 lead. And, after the Bullets failed on three shot attempts on their next possession, Miller took over.

The Olympic team guard scored all 10 points on a 10-2 Indiana run, hitting jumpers from everywhere. In all, he scored the final 11 points for the Pacers, helping Indiana to the victory.

The Bullets ran into major problems in the first half when Gheorghe Muresan picked up three fouls in the first quarter, limiting him to just nine first-half minutes. But despite his spending much of the half on the bench, the Bullets, behind a defensive effort that limited the Pacers to just 40.5 percent shooting in the first half, only trailed by 49-47 at the half.

A big reason why the Bullets were able to stay in the game was because Pacers 7-foot-4 center Smits was not a factor in the time that Muresan sat. Smits had 17 points in the half, but only six points after Muresan left the game.

Howard and Cheaney picked up the scoring load with Muresan out. Howard scored 14 points and Cheaney 12 as the Bullets were able to survive a slow start when the team committed nine first-quarter turnovers.

Smits pretty much had his way in the first quarter when he scored 13 points, and he helped the Pacers to their biggest lead of the half -- 22-16 -- which came after forward Derrick McKey converted a three-point play with 5: 06 left.

Washington scored the next six points, tying the game at 22 after a layup by Ledell Eackles with 2: 50 left. But during the course of the run, Muresan picked up his third foul, forcing him to the bench. The Bullets failed to score another field goal after an Eackles layup, and ended the quarter trailing, 31-26.

Indiana led despite being outshot by the Bullets in the quarter (44 to 50 percent). And the shooting didn't get any better in the second quarter for the Pacers, who missed 10 of their first 14 shots.

That allowed the Bullets to tie the game at 35 after two free throws by Eackles with 5: 57 left. And from there, the Bullets never trailed by more than three points, although they were never able to take the lead.

The game was tied as late as 58 seconds left in the half, after a tip-in by Cheaney. But the Pacers -- with Miller and Smits hitting five of six shots in the quarter, and the rest of the team hitting just one of 11 -- got a jumper by Smits with 29 seconds left for the 49-47 halftime lead.

Indiana didn't get a single point from Miller in the third quarter. But with Smits and Dale Davis scoring 13 of the first 17 points of the third, the Pacers went on to a 66-59 lead after a Smits dunk with 5: 23 left.

A 10-4 run by the Bullets saw that lead cut to 70-69 after a three-pointer by Price with 1: 58 left. The Bullets would not score the rest of the quarter and trailed, 75-69, going into the final period.

NOTES: Rasheed Wallace and Robert Pack were examined by team doctors before last night's game and the word wasn't good: Pack, who still has soreness in his right leg, will not practice today. And it now seems unlikely that Wallace will return this season.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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