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NBA HISTORY

Against the Bulls, Miller proves clutch once again


Posted Mar 3 2013 8:41PM

With another postseason of heroics to add to his resumé, Reggie Miller, Indiana's sharpshooting guard joined Michael Jordan at the head of the class among great pressure performers in recent NBA history.

Miller had provided one of basketball's best dramas four years earlier, when he led the Pacers past New York at Madison Square Garden.

In 1998, Miller and the Pacers returned to the Garden for a Game 4 Conference Semifinals date with the Knicks. Once again, the results were electrifying. The upstart Knicks, a seventh-seed in this year's playoffs, were seconds away from evening up the best-of-seven series at 2-2 when Miller struck with a flash.

With New York leading 102-99, Indiana's Chris Mullin won a scramble for a loose ball rebound and pitched it out to Mark Jackson at the top of the key. Jackson -- who would later say that "if I'm red-hot and Reggie's ice cold, I'd still rather have him take the shot" -- calmly swung the ball to a wide-open Miller behind the arc on the left wing for a game-tying three-pointer with 5.1 seconds remaining.

As if that weren't enough Miller misery for the Garden fans to endure, Reggie added seven more points (he had 38 total) in overtime. He punctuated his performance with a "dagger" from downtown that not only gave Indiana a 10-point lead and insured the 118-107 win, but also effectively ended the series by giving Indiana a 3-1 series lead. The Pacers went back home to wrap up the series in Game 5.

Miller wasn't done. The series win over the Knicks meant that the Pacers would battle the Jordan and the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference title. Chicago won the first two games of the series at the United Center, and the Pacers were standing on the precipice with four-and-a-half minutes to go in Game 3, holding a precarious 89-87 lead against the two-time defending champions and fighting to avoid a 3-0 series deficit.

Miller had been quiet to this point, limited to 15 points and hampered by an ankle injury suffered in the third quarter. But the Pacer star caught fire and hobbled his way to an explosive stretch run which carried Indiana to victory.

First, Miller drilled two three-pointers within 60 seconds and then he beat the shot clock with a 20-footer off the dribble to give the Pacers a 97-89 lead. Another clutch three from the right corner with 1:34 left gave Indiana a 101-93 advantage and appeared to seal the game, but the Bulls fought back, closing the gap to as little as 103-102 before Miller finally iced it with two free throws with ten seconds left. Reggie limped away from the 107-105 win having scored 13 of his 28 points in the final four-and-a-half minutes to keep the Pacers' series hopes alive.

"He said he could go. He put everything on the line and stepped up and hit the big shots," said coach Larry Bird, who knows a little something about big shots himself. "But that's just Reggie."

With only one day off to rest his hurting ankle, speculation began as to whether or not Miller could even suit up. "I shouldn't have been out there," Miller admitted after Indiana's 96-94 Game 4 win. "[My ankle] loosened up a little as the game went on. I couldn't plant and I couldn't push off of it. I thought I was killing us. I was just a jump-shooter out there."

Indeed, Miller was held to just 15 points on the day, but luckily for the Pacers, he was out there for the final 2.9 seconds on Monday.

With Indiana trailing 94-93, Miller ran off a series of screens and fought off Michael Jordan before breaking free to catch the inbounds pass from Derrick McKey. With a lightning-quick release, he buried a three with seven-tenths of a second to play, electrifying Market Square Arena and sending Miller running down the court to jump in circles of joy.

The Hoosier State held its collective breath as the Bulls prepared for one final shot, but Jordan's three at the buzzer rimmed out and the Pacers scored a 96-94 win to send the Eastern Conference Finals back to Chicago tied at 2-2.

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