Miller, O'Neal line up oppositely

Pacers show strength shooting free throws

NBA Finals notebook Pro Basketball

June 14, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - When Shaquille O'Neal is at the foul line late in the game, Pacers guard Reggie Miller says he is most concerned that his team is lined up correctly to box out just in case the Lakers center misses.

Miller reiterated the "just in case part" instead of saying "when" because he is still not convinced O'Neal will automatically miss.

But missing is what O'Neal did in Game 3, shooting 3-for-13 for the game, including 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter. Miller, who finished second behind Utah Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek in free-throw shooting percentage this season, knocked down nine of nine, including eight in the fourth quarter.

They are both the leaders of their teams, and the difference between their free-throw shooting is as big as the difference in arm size between the NBA All-Stars.

They also represent how their respective teams shoot from the line. Miller and the Pacers were the league's best free-throw shooting team during the regular season and are shooting 82 percent as a team in the playoffs.

O'Neal and the Lakers are shooting a playoffs-worst 62.5 percent from the line.

A reporter told O'Neal that if he would have made the 10 free throws he missed in Game 3, the Lakers would have won the game by one, getting a chuckle out of the big man. Despite being constantly questioned about his poor shooting from the line, O'Neal remains cordial to those who keep asking.

"I think with my game being the way it is, if I did shoot 80 percent, I'd be harder person to deal with," O'Neal said. "It just keeps me humble. Just imagine me in my game shooting the same percentage that Reggie Miller shoots. I wouldn't even talk to you guys."

Learning from the enemy

Miller and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said they worked out together during the off-season, picking each others brain and abilities in order to become a more complete player.

Bryant said he learned how to move without the ball better, as Miller does, and how to step back to create room between the defender to get his shot off.

Miller got to see up close some of Bryant's off-the-dribble moves, and looks to have implemented them during the Finals.

"He was going off the dribble a lot last game, wasn't he?" Bryant said. "Going between the legs and shooting the ball."

Being the competitors they are, they couldn't help but play one-on-one. Miller, of course, had a reason for falling to the younger Bryant.

"Yes, he did beat me, but the reason why he beat me was they went out in the first round and we went to the conference finals, and I was tired, and he hadn't done anything," Miller said.

Bryant's explanation was much simpler. "One-on-one is my game," he said. "You ain't going to get me one-on-one."

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