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Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Miller delivers game winner

May 23, 2004

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— Reggie Miller did what Reggie Miller does.

After missing his first six shots, Miller drilled a three-pointer with 31.7 seconds left to break the game's final tie and lead Indiana past Detroit, 78-74, Saturday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"You knew it was coming," Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal said. "He's going to make one big-time shot, and he thrives on the biggest shot."

Miller's 13-year career has been marked by his clutch shooting, particularly in the playoffs.

Fans of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets have seen him make several devastating three-pointers, and now the folks in Detroit have experienced that same sickening Miller Time feeling.

"When he shot it, I pretty much knew he was going to make it," said Richard Hamilton, who was defending Miller "The guy's been making those shots all his career."

With the score tied at 74, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal missed a difficult turnaround jumper from the left baseline. Jeff Foster tipped the rebound to a teammate, and the Pacers had another chance.

Miller popped free off a screen set by Foster, took a pass from Jamaal Tinsley and buried his shot to make it 77-74.

"All I need is to have a half-second of daylight," Miller said. "Law of averages. You're either a hero or goat. It's a 50-50 shot, and I'll take my chances. I practice that shot every day."

Hamilton missed a three-pointer for Detroit, and O'Neal was fouled on the rebound with 19.8 seconds left, but he missed both foul shots to give the Pistons another chance.

Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace each airballed three-point attempts, and Miller made the second of two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to seal Indiana's 14th consecutive home victory.

"There's seven seconds on the clock, we're in the penalty and we airball a three -- we can't win that way," said Pistons coach Larry Brown.

Game 2 is Monday night.

Miller helped the Pacers overcome a fourth-quarter offensive drought in which they were held scoreless for a stretch of nearly four minutes by Detroit's intense defense.

O'Neal led Indiana with 21 points and 14 rebounds, Ron Artest scored 17, Al Harrington had 14 and Tinsley 13.

Hamilton scored 23, Billups had 18 and Ben Wallace added 11 points and 22 rebounds for the Pistons, who got little (four points, five fouls, three turnovers) from Rasheed Wallace, whose only postgame comment was to guarantee a Game 2 victory.

Indiana won despite shooting 33 percent, getting outrebounded 47-41 and being held to 30 second-half points -- 13 in the third quarter and 17 in the fourth.

"That's pretty much what I was expecting," O'Neal said. "There weren't any surprises out there tonight."

The Pacers were ahead 48-41 at halftime behind 14 points from Harrington and 13 from O'Neal. Billups and Hamilton accounted for 10 of Detroit's 17 first-half field goals.

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