Miller Looking Forward to Another Deciding Game

by Conrad Brunner

May 1, 2002

GAME 5 PREVIEW

HEAD-TO-HEAD
2-2 RECORD 2-2
W-1 STREAK L-1
87.3 PTS 84.3
41.3 REBS 39.0
21.0 AST 18.3
17.5 TO 15.8
.451 FG PCT .425
By Conrad Brunner


Pacers (2-2) at New Jersey (2-2)
Thursday, May 2, 6 p.m. (Central)
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ TV: WB4 (local), TNT (cable)
RADIO: WIBC-1070 AM

SCOUTING REPORT
There is much to be learned from history, if the Pacers are willing to study at the feet of the old professor, Uncle Reg himself. Not long after his young team had blown out the Nets by 23 points in Game 4, Miller was bringing up the Pacers' last Game 5 experience. In 2000, they were the top seed in the East and were blown out by the eighth-seeded Bucks in Milwaukee in Game 4. The veteran Pacers assumed the young Bucks had spent themselves and that Game 5 would be an automatic victory. Instead, it was almost a devastating defeat, avoided only when Travis Best drained a last-second 3-pointer for a 96-95 escape.

Five years before, the Pacers blew out favored Orlando by 27 points at home in Game 6 of the 1995 Eastern Conference finals, then watched as Horace Grant gathered his young Magic teammates afterward on the court at Market Square Arena to deliver the same point Miller was making Tuesday night: what you did in the last game doesn't matter; what you do in the next one counts.

"(Milwaukee) blew us out in Game 4 in their building and we came back here thinking it was going to be easy street," Miller said. "They had the big three and it came down to a final shot by Travis Best. It took everything in our bodies to win that ballgame. Hopefully, we'll get that type of effort. The referees are going to let us play. I don't see a lot of fouls called. It's really who wants it more. But we've got to get into the game quick. We can't play catch-up. We can't be always be battling back, battling back. We've got to get into the game quickly, execute, dive for loose balls, get long rebounds and we've got to run."


Reggie Miller

This will be the eighth deciding game (Game 5 or Game 7) in Pacers history; they're 2-5 overall, 1-4 on the road. Miller has played in all of them, averaging 25.7 points on .483 shooting overall, .442 from the arc. In three previous Game 5s, Miller has averaged 30.7 points on .492 shooting. In the aforementioned Milwaukee game, Miller laid 41 on the Bucks.

On these ultimate occasions, he typically rises.

"I think this is going to be the most fun, personally, for myself," he said. "Throughout my whole career, every time I've stepped onto the floor, I've led by my actions. I've been more vocal because of the younger guys the last few years, but you've got to lead by actions, and I'm going to be ready for Game 5."

The Nets, on the other hand, have just two deciding games in the NBA, both Games 5, both losses (1984 and 1993). While New Jersey will be at home, the Pacers are anything but intimidated by the circumstances.

"Both teams are facing elimination," Miller said. "It's going to be a flat-out fight. It's really who wants it more. I think the opportunity of advancing is in everybody's mind. It's in New Jersey's mind as well. They're a franchise, this could be a big step for them. It could be a big step for a young team like us. So I think both teams are really thinking about that.

"They have all the luxuries of being at home. With that being in mind, going to Continental (Airlines) Arena, we have to focus in on thinking we're already 10 down. That's the way you have to think on the road, when you're going into someone else's building, that you've got to play from behind. You constantly take that attitude, then you play your best. If we think we're going to walk in there and play like we played (in Game 4), we're out of our minds."

What the Pacers also learned in Game 4 is that they don't have to rely solely on their stars to carry them. Miller and Jermaine O'Neal combined for just 28 while role-players Austin Croshere, Ron Artest and Kevin Ollie took control of the game. The Nets have won when Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin both played well; they have lost when either has not.

"It does wonders for us, Austin stepping up and doing the things he did, Ron Artest stepping up and also me stepping up, it makes everybody feel great - and it gives them a couple things they've got to think about," said Ollie. "Now they've got to think about Austin or maybe Ron. It gives us an advantage where we can come off our bench and have some power. Their bench has really been beating us bad in the first three games so I'm glad we got a chance to get back up on them."

The fifth-youngest playoff team in league history is trying to become the third No. 8 seed to advance, so there is history on the line for the Pacers, if not pressure. The expectations are on the Nets, who now face the possibility of a premature end to the best NBA season in franchise history.

"We have no pressure on us," said Brad Miller. "Nobody expected us to even make the playoffs. Nobody thought about us being here in this position. What else can we do but go out there and play loose? All the pressure's on them but they're going to step up to that pressure, I'm sure. It's going to be a war, it's going to be a battle, it's going to be a heck of a game."

For Reggie Miller, it's going to be something else.

"This," he said, "is really going to be fun for me."

PROBABLE STARTERS

O'Neal

Kidd
J. Tinsley
4.5
PG J. Kidd
20.0
R. Miller
21.8
SG K. Kittles
5.5
R. Artest
11.3
SF K. Van Horn
11.5
J. O'Neal
17.0
PF K. Martin
17.0
B. Miller
10.5
C T. MacCulloch
4.8
K. Ollie
5.3
6th MAN A. Williams
6.5
POINT
"I love the way we're playing and Game 5 is going to be very exciting. It's going to be extremely challenging. The pressure's back on them now. They've got to go back home and defend. We're the eight seed, they're a one seed, they're supposed to win and we'll see what happens."

- Pacers coach Isiah Thomas
COUNTERPOINT
"This is what we played for all season long. We played for homecourt advantage and to have a situation like this where we're going to be at home."

- Nets coach Byron Scott

WHO'S HOT
Pacers - After totaling 21 fast-break points in the first three games, the Pacers racked up 25 in Game 4. ... After totaling 36 minutes, five DNP-CDs, 13 points and 4-of-18 shooting in the previous 11 games, Austin Croshere exploded for 18 points in 29 minutes in Game 4. ... Jeff Foster has averaged 5.8 rebounds in only 15.8 minutes off the bench. ... Ron Mercer has averaged 8.5 points in 24.5 minutes in the last two games. ... Reggie Miller has averaged 21.8 points on .533 shooting in the series. ... Kevin Ollie's 11-point, nine-assist effort in Game 4 was the best of his postseason career. He also attempted (and made) his first 3-pointer in 33 games with the Pacers, as well as his first in 37 playoff games. ... The team has averaged 8.75 steals and has outrebounded the Nets 83-69 in two victories. ... Ron Artest has 12 steals in four games.
Nets - Jason Kidd is averaging 20.0 points, 8.8 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.75 steals in the series. ... Kenyon Martin has averaged 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. ... Lucious Harris has gone 10-of-16 from the field (.625) in the last three games. ... The team holds advantages of 150-112 on points in the paint, 45-26 on second-chance points and 72-45 in fast-break points.

WHO'S NOT
Pacers - Jermaine O'Neal has averaged 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting .361 in the last three games, with more fouls (14) than field goals (13). ... Artest is shooting just .356 for the series. ... Jonathan Bender has totaled six points and four rebounds in 40 minutes. ... Brad Miller has averaged 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting .321 in the last three. ... Jamaal Tinsley played a season-low 10 minutes in Game 4. ... The team is averaging 17.5 turnovers in the series.
Nets - The team is 11-of-45 (.244) from the 3-point line. ... Keith Van Horn has averaged just 11.5 points on .354 shooting in the series. ... Todd MacCulloch has averaged 19.3 minutes, 4.8 points and 5.0 rebounds. ... Kerry Kittles has averaged 5.5 points on .323 shooting. ... Kidd is coming off a 4-of-15 shooting night in Game 4. ... Aaron Williams has gone 2-of-11 from the field (.182) in the last two games.

KEY MATCHUP
Point guard - With Tinsley obviously hurting and unable to give the Pacers more than token minutes, most of the time will be shared by Ollie and Ron Mercer. Ollie performed brilliantly in Game 4. Mercer, while not comfortable or instinctive at the point, has bought valuable time without making costly mistakes, and has the ability to contribute a few baskets in streaks. Ollie and Mercer both tend to make Kidd work harder on the defensive end, which could sap some life from his legs on offense. But if Kidd gets on a roll, there's not much the Pacers can do.



INJURIES
Pacers - G Jamaal Tinsley (sprained R knee) is probable.
Nets - C Todd MacCulloch (sore L foot) will play.