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Last Year's No.1 Seed is the No. 8 Seed
Behind the Eight Ball
By Martin C. Sumners

What hopes do all 16 teams have of hopping in the postseason driver's seat? Take a ride with as we outline each team's Keys to Success.


New York


L.A. Lakers
San Antonio

MASTER KEY: After being "Reggie's Team" for the better part of Reggie Miller's storied 14-year career, the Pacers' new key to success is Jalen Rose. He is the team's leading scorer (20.5 ppg), and ranks second in assists (6.0 apg) and third in rebounding(5.0). Rose leads the team not only with his raw numbers, but the six-year pro is the emotional core bridging the gap between the team's youth movement and its grizzled vets.

KEY STOPPER: In just his third-year and straight out of high school, Al Harrington is finding his niche in the NBA with his energy and defensive skills. "He's accepting the challenge of crowding the good scorers like Peja Stojakovic and Vince Carter," says Pacers' assistant coach Brendan Malone. Do not be surprised if you see Harrington trying to harass Allen Iverson during the first-round matchup against Philadelphia.

KEY IN THE KEY: Jermaine O'Neal, the rangy 6-11 center, is one of the league's best shot blockers. He blocks them in volumes as he ranks second in the league at 2.81 bpg, but probably first in loudness! O'Neal's thunderous blocks are accompanied with a fine rebounding game at 9.8 rpg, which ranks 11th in the league.

KEY DISTRIBUTOR:: Although not a starter, Travis Best leads the team in assists. Better than that, he takes care of the pumpkin like Peter Peter as he is ranked sixth in the league with a 3.72 assist-per-turnover ratio.

KEY RESERVE: During last year's playoffs, Austin Croshere came through for the Pacers en route to their Eastern Conference title like that extra key hidden somewhere for an emergency. Almost out of nowhere, the 6-9 forward hit big shot after big shot or grabbed an offensive rebound leading to more scoring opportunities. Expectations were high for Croshere entering this season and at times he may not have met them, but the Pacers are definitley hoping history repeats itself.

KEY WIN, KEY VID: With less than three weeks remaining in the season, the Pacers trailed the resurgent Boston Celtics by one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But coming off a disappointing 104-93 road loss to Atlanta the night before, the Pacers left Fleet Center with a come from behind 92-87 victory and never looked backed.
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KEY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: In that key win, which had all the makings of a post-season game, Austin Croshere reverted to last year's playoff form. Croshere scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 10 boards.

KEY LONG-RANGE GUNNER: "Miller Time." Maybe 'nuff said, but we'll praise the NBA's best all-time gunner some more anyway. This past season, Reggie Miller became the first player in NBA history to make 2,000 three-point baskets. When asked for his most memorable accomplishment, he said, "Probably the 2000 threes because no one has ever done it before." Others may say one of the many times he tossed in a heroic late-game bomb. Either way the argument revolves around the flick of his wrist.


Option No. 1: Indy will try to run its offense through the multi-talented Jalen Rose.

THE WINNING KEY IS THE RE'S: Someone once said:"It's the economy, stupid." Well, in the post-season, "It's rebounding, stupid. The Pacers are 32-9 in games when they have the advantage or tied in rebounds.

LITTLE-KNOWN KEY: Indiana ranked third in the league in defensive field-goal percentage(.424) behind San Antonio and New York.

KEY NEWCOMER: Jermaine O'Neal, after spending his college years on the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers, was finally traded this past offseason to the Pacers and immediately inserted as a starter by new Head Coach Isiah Thomas. Traded for Dale Davis, one of the Pacers' mainstays during their tenure as an Eastern power in the '90's, O'Neal brings a new dimension of length and energy along with his 12.6 ppg.

KEY TIDBIT: Al Harrington, during the summer before his senior year in high school, worked in the office of a New Jersey State Senator. The Pacers fans are lobbying him and his teammates for a successful postseason.
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