Open Miller shuts down Knicks Pacers guard forces OT with late three

Indiana wins, 118-107, to go up 3-1

May 11, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- It seemed like everywhere Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller moved for much of the second half yesterday, New York Knicks guard Chris Childs was there. On the rare occasions Miller did shake free, another defender usually picked him up long enough for Childs to recover.

So one would have expected Miller to be relieved when, with five seconds remaining in regulation and his team trailing by three, the Pacers shooting guard found himself wide open beyond the three-point arc.

He wasn't.

"Those are the worst shots to shoot," Miller said. "You're so wide-open. A lot of great shooters would like to have someone running at them."

Still, everyone in Madison Square Garden knew the outcome even before Miller released the ball, having been down this road with him many times before. Miller's three-pointer was all net to tie the game and force overtime, where Indiana dominated New York for a 118-107 win that gave the Pacers a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.

It was a game that the Knicks appeared to have won in the final quarter. But they've come to learn the hard way in the playoffs that the game is never over when Miller is on the other side.

There was Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, when Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to give Indiana an improbable two-point win. Or Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals, when Miller scored 25 fourth-quarter points in another Indiana win. Miller's 38 points yesterday marked the seventh time in his career he has scored at least 30 in a playoff game against the Knicks.

"I'm sure it ranks right up there," Miller said when asked where the shot ranked with his big moments at Madison Square Garden. "I think every big moment I've had in the Garden, we've won."

The way the entire game-tying sequence unfolded was stunning to New York, which must win in Indiana on Wednesday to bring the series back here Friday.

After leading by seven on a jumper by Patrick Ewing with 3: 47 left, New York was ahead 102-99 after John Starks -- fouled after Miller had missed a contested three-pointer -- made two free throws with 19 seconds left. Indiana was obviously trying to work the ball to Miller for a game-tying attempt, but when he was covered, he passed to Rik Smits.

Smits, who scored 14 in the fourth quarter, missed a layup. The rebound was tipped out to Chris Mullin, who, because he was inside the three-point line, redirected it to Mark Jackson, who was beyond the arc. Jackson in turn swung the ball on the left side to Miller.

"If I'm red hot and Reggie is ice cold," Jackson said, "I'd rather him take the shot."

When Miller was asked if he was ever that wide-open in that situation, he replied: "Against New York, never.

L "They play too good defense. They always know where I'm at."

After Miller made the shot, the Knicks had a chance to win. But Allan Houston's runner in the lane bounced off the rim, forcing overtime. In overtime, the Pacers scored the first 12 points, as the Knicks missed nine of 13 shots and committed two turnovers.

"I think they were pretty stunned when I hit the three," Miller said. "I like to feed off the emotion of the crowd and the language of the players. I looked in Houston's and [Patrick Ewing's] eyes, and they didn't have that same fire that they had when they built that lead."

So the Pacers were able to steal a game in which the Knicks made eight of 11 three-pointers before a late collapse -- two field goals in the final five minutes. Houston had 19 points, but just one after halftime. Ewing had 17 points in his third game back from a wrist injury that sidelined him five months, but was no answer defensively against Smits, who scored at will in the fourth quarter after taking just one shot in the first half.

And that helped the Pacers avoid back-to-back losses, something that hasn't happened since Dec. 8 and 10.

"If we win, when we win [Wednesday], we have one more game here and we go back to Indiana," Ewing said. "We feel this series is not over. We feel we're still capable of beating this team."

But it will be hard to beat the Pacers. Especially with Miller and his shooting mentality.

"I tell you this," Miller said, "I don't want to leave any bullets in my gun when I'm finished."

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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