Kittles Hits, Miller Misses and Nets Take Thriller

by Conrad Brunner

April 27, 2002

STAR OF THE GAME

REGGIE MILLER
Though he missed the final shot that would've won the game, the Pacers wouldn't have been in position to compete without their veteran leader. He scored a game-high 30 points, hitting 11-of-19 shots, including a 25-foot 3-pointer that put the Pacers ahead 83-82 with 34.0 seconds remaining.
UNSUNG HERO

JASON KIDD
Though he was not as obviously dominant as in previous games, Kidd was again the engine that drove the Nets as he racked up 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.
POINT

ISIAH THOMAS
"He (Reggie Miller) got a good look (on the final play). He missed the shot. It happens that way. I thought it was a good basketball game. It was an exciting playoff game. New Jersey just got a couple of bounces ... sometimes you've got to be lucky. They played hard, they played well, we got a good look at the end of the game and didn't knock it down."
COUNTERPOINT

BYRON SCOTT
"When Reggie caught the ball at the end, I thought we were in trouble. I know Reggie lives for that moment and my heart stopped for a few beats, but he had a rush it."
STAT OF THE GAME
In the first half, the Pacers' starting front line of Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller and Ron Artest combined to go 2-of-20 from the field and score just six points.
HIDDEN NUMBERS
Points off turnovers: Pacers 19, Nets 16
Points in the paint: Pacers 36, Nets 30
Second-chance points: Nets 11, Pacers 8
Fast-break points: Nets 25, Pacers 6
Starters scoring: Nets 68, Pacers 65
Bench scoring: Pacers 19, Nets 17
84
85
Round 1, Game 3
April 26, 2002
Conseco Fieldhouse
Indianapolis


By Conrad Brunner
END RESULT
All things considered, the Pacers couldn't have asked for a more favorable scenario: Reggie Miller 23 feet from the basket, open, with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. But this time, Miller missed badly at the buzzer and the New Jersey Nets - thrust into the lead by Kerry Kittles' 3-pointer with 22.5 seconds left - escaped with a dramatic 85-84 victory in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series on Friday night in Conseco Fieldhouse.

WHAT IT MEANS
Trailing 2-1 in the series, the Pacers find themselves in a familiar scenario - with their backs to the wall in a desperate, win-or-else situation entering Game 4 on Tuesday night. New Jersey, on the other hand, regained homecourt advantage and can close out the series with a victory in either of the next two games.

UP NEXT
The teams meet again in Game 4 on Tuesday night in Conseco Fieldhouse with the time to be determined. If Dallas beats Minnesota on Sunday to sweep the series, the Pacers and Nets will play at 8:30 p.m. (Central). If the Timberwolves win Sunday to force a Game 4, the Pacers-Nets game will be at 7:30 p.m. (Central).

TURNING POINT
A game that was destined to go down to the wire delivered, as there were three lead changes and two ties in the final 3½ minutes. Miller's long 3-pointer with 34 seconds left put the Pacers ahead 83-82 and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. On the Nets' next possession, Kidd missed a jumper but Keith Van Horn came up with the rebound and in the scramble, Kittles was left alone at the arc and the ball found its way into his hands. Though he was 1-of-10 from the field and hadn't made a basket in 43 minutes, Kittles drilled the critical trey with 22.5 seconds left for the 85-83 lead. The Pacers then worked the ball inside to Jermaine O'Neal, who missed a left-hander from the post, grabbed his own rebound, had his putback blocked by Aaron Williams, grabbed another rebound and was fouled by Van Horn with 3.6 seconds remaining.

With the arena hushed on each attempt, O'Neal made the first but missed the second. Ron Artest got a hand on the rebound but it was knocked free and bounced to Aaron Williams, who Artest fouled with eight-tenths of a second remaining. After missing the first free throw, Williams missed the second intentionally - but because the shot failed to hit the rim, no time went off the clock when Jeff Foster rebounded and immediately called timeout. That gave the Pacers the ball at midcourt and less than one second on the clock, meaning their only chance was a catch-and-shoot situation. Miller curled through the lane to the top of the key and was left open as Kidd lost his footing come around O'Neal's screen, but the rushed 23-footer was wide left and didn't draw iron.

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
On a night when there was little scoring elsewhere, Miller carried the Pacers with 30 points. O'Neal, scoreless in the first half, finished with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting, adding eight rebounds. Artest scored 11. Ron Mercer provided a spark off the bench with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and Foster had a solid night with seven points, 12 rebounds and four assists. The Pacers shot .410 overall and committed just 13 turnovers against 25 assists, but were a paltry 12-of-21 from the free throw line - 5-of-10 in the fourth quarter. The Nets shot .432 and held a 46-45 rebounding edge. Kidd led the way with 24 points and 11 assists. Kenyon Martin was solid with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Van Horn had 14 points and 12 rebounds but was 5-of-15 from the floor.

STRATEGY/PERSONNEL
Considering their brutal offensive play in the first half, the Pacers were fortunate to be down by just seven at the break. O'Neal was perhaps a little too ready for the game, picking up a quick technical foul a little more than 90 seconds into the game for a vigorous protest of a foul call. The Pacers missed their first nine shots and fell into a 10-2 hole, but Mercer came off the bench to provide some offensive line and combined with Miller to help bring the Pacers back with a 13-6 run that cut the Nets' lead to 23-21 at the end of the period. O'Neal missed his first six shots and left after picking up his third foul with 3:26 left in the half and wound up scoreless for the first two periods. Brad Miller was 1-of-10 in the half. The Nets weren't much better and managed to build only a 44-37 lead despite the Pacers' .348 shooting and impotent interior play.

O'Neal was much more in rhythm in the third period, hitting his first basket with 10:32 left in the quarter and the Pacers put together a quick 10-0 run to take their first lead, 49-48, on a Jamaal Tinsley drive with 7:41 remaining in the third. That was the first of nine consecutive lead changes. O'Neal hit a baseline jumper to give the Pacers their biggest lead, 62-56, but the Nets kept things from getting out of hand and the lead was just 66-64 heading into the fourth. Thomas stuck with his gameplan, albeit taking a risk, by using Mercer at the point for six minutes of the final period rather than using either Tinsley or backup Kevin Ollie and the offense struggled to find any kind of rhythm. The Pacers were 6-of-17 from the floor in the quarter. They took a 76-73 lead when O'Neal posted up Williams with 4:52 remaining, then went three minutes without a basket as the Nets came back to take an 80-78 lead. Artest's drive tied it with 1:57 remaining, setting up the dramatic finish.

NOTEWORTHY
  • Miller passed the 2,500-point mark in career playoff points, raising his total to 2,521, which ranks 23rd in NBA history. He passed Byron Scott (2,451) in Game 1. He is averaging 24.3 points on .553 shooting in the series.
  • After scoring 30 points in the Game 1 victory, O'Neal has totaled 24 on 8-of-28 shooting in the last two losses.
  • The Nets outscored the Pacers 25-6 on fast-break points and now hold a 56-21 advantage in the series.
  • This was the Nets' first road playoff victory since May 1, 1993, in a first-round series at Cleveland.
  • NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik was on hand to present the Most Improved Player trophy to O'Neal in a brief ceremony prior to the game.
  • Something's got to give here. The Pacers are 11-1 when they win Game 1 of a playoff series, but they're 1-13 when they don't have homecourt advantage.