Pacers' Miller uncertain for today Bulls remain confident of closing series in next 2

May 25, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS -- In one sharpshooting flurry, Reggie Miller's heroics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals gave the Indiana Pacers life against the Chicago Bulls. But going into Indiana's biggest game of the season this afternoon, there's some question of whether Miller will be healthy enough to even play.

While his teammates practiced yesterday in preparation forGame 4, Miller received treatment on his right ankle that was sprained when he stepped on Michael Jordan's foot in the third quarter of Saturday's 107-105 Indiana victory.

Miller said he heard a pop in his foot at the time of the injury, although that didn't prevent him from scoring 13 huge fourth-quarter points that gave the Pacers an opportunity to tie the series at two with a victory today. His status is listed as day-to-day.

"It's very sore," Miller said. "I want to have some mobility and right now, I don't have any mobility. If we were playing [Sunday], I couldn't play."

Even if Miller plays, he'll be less than 100 percent. And you can expect the Bulls to aggressively attack him, something that surprisingly did not happen during the fourth quarter of Game 3 when Miller hobbled so much on the court that coach Larry Bird nearly yanked him out of the game.

"We always assume that if a guy can walk on the court, he's 100 percent and he's a threat," Chicago coach Phil Jackson said yesterday. "You're not going to take your game apart simply because a guy is in some jeopardy or has some injury. If you do, then you're doing some disservice to your team, yourself and to the game."

And you can bet that Jordan will be ready to go at Miller, especially after some comments the Indiana shooting guard made after the Game 3 win. It was Jordan who got burned defensively by Miller's fourth-quarter explosion, and the Indiana shooting guard -- who had been shut down by Ron Harper for most of the series -- said he was actually pleased to be defended by a member of the all-NBA defensive team.

"I'd rather have Jordan on me," Miller said. "It's the competitiveness to take on the best. Ron's primary assignment is to stop me; he's not looking for offense. It's a different story when Mike has to guard me and get off at the other end. If he's going to have a chance to go at you, you want a chance to go back at him."

Even though the Bulls lost in a Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history (7-1 after Saturday), there didn't appear to be that much of a concern. If you were to describe Chicago's demeanor in one word in the aftermath of just the second loss of this year's playoffs, it would be cocky.

Asked about Indiana's bench, Jackson said yesterday: "Wait until we get to Utah." And after Saturday's loss, Jackson replied: "The Pacers were able to carry the day, barely. We'll grudgingly give them their due. I think the best game of the series is going to be Monday."

The Bulls, looking to end this series as soon as possible now that the Utah Jazz is at home resting, will have to figure out a way to contain Indiana guard Travis Best. The teams that give Chicago the most problems are those with quick point guards, and the 5-foot-11 Best is quick enough that the Bulls have to go more to Randy Brown or Steve Kerr on defense to stop his penetration -- and away from the Scottie Pippen-on-Mark Jackson assignment that frustrated the Pacers for two games.

"His penetration is certainly a key," Jordan said of Best. "Our focus is on trying to help open the door for other people."

And yet for all that went wrong on Saturday, the Bulls said they're not worried.

"We're still in control," Jordan said. "If we win [today] -- or when we win [today] -- certainly we want to go home [Wednesday] FTC and close it out."

Pub Date: 5/25/98

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