Reggie Miller, John Starks
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"I Almost Fell Over": An Oral History of Reggie Miller's 8 Points in 9 Seconds

25 Years Later, Former Pacers Recall Thrilling End to Game 1 Against the Knicks
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

On May 7, 1995, Reggie Miller scored eight points in nine seconds to lead the Pacers to a stunning 107-105 victory over the New York Knicks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. For the 25th anniversary of that unforgettable finish, Pacers.com spoke with a number of participants about their recollection of that night at Madison Square Garden.

By 1995, the Pacers and Knicks were well acquainted with one another. New York had beaten Indiana in four games in the first round of the 1993 playoffs and then prevailed again the next season in a hard-fought, seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers captured the Central Division title in the 1994-95 season and swept Atlanta in the first round. That set up yet another postseason showdown with the Knicks (who had dispatched Cleveland), this time in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Mark Boyle, Pacers radio broadcaster: The Pacers were good from day one (that season) and so were the Knicks. And while it wasn't a foregone conclusion they would meet in the (playoffs), it was certainly a strong possibility throughout the season. As the 82 games wore on, you got the sense that the two teams were keeping an eye on one another.

Mark Jackson, Pacers point guard: They had beaten and been a bully to Indiana for so many years and they signified the big stage and the bright lights. We wanted to send a message of just who we represented, and that was Indiana basketball.

Larry Brown, Pacers head coach: They talked about Detroit being the "Bad Boys" and how physical and tough and great defensively they were. I think you could say the same for Pat (Riley's Knicks) team. They were unbelievably deep at just about every position. They guarded like crazy. They never let you take a layup. Matter of fact, he wouldn't let his players talk to our players during warmups. During the game, they never helped you up.

Rik Smits, Pacers center: We hated those guys. We loved beating them and they loved beating us.

Things seemed grim for the Pacers with 18.7 seconds remaining in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, as they trailed 105-99 coming out of a timeout. Center Rik Smits had outplayed Knicks All-Star center Patrick Ewing, scoring 34 points to Ewing's 11, but had fouled out. So, too, had Derrick McKey. Antonio Davis had been ejected in the third quarter, along with Knicks guard Derek Harper.

Jackson: I remember it being a tough, hard-fought game. I can remember the back and forth, the trash-talking, the bad blood, the energy in the building, the disappointment when it looked like it was going to go the other way...I just remember the environment being electric.

Reggie Miller, Pacers guard: I was so upset that we were down. I felt that we were a much better team than the Knicks at that particular time, but that game we just didn't show up.

Donnie Walsh, Pacers President of Basketball Operations: I didn't think we'd played well. And so when we were down toward the end of the game, it was in the last minute, so I just felt like we were going to lose. I walked out. I was kind of upset because I thought we'd perform better.

Jackson: I can just remember being in a timeout and it being silence. (Brown's) message (was) "It's far from over." But not for one second did anybody buy into it being far from over. It seemed like it was over.

Sam Mitchell, Pacers forward: When you're in situation like that, you don't really think you're going to come back to win the game. You're hoping and you play until the final buzzer, but you don't think you're going to win the game.

Out of the timeout, Jackson inbounded to Miller, who came off a screen to catch the ball on the left wing, quickly turned and buried a 3-pointer.

Miller: I remember coming out of the timeout, I said, "Okay, if we get a quick three and cut the deficit down, anything is possible." I knew they didn't have any timeouts, so that kind of worked in our favor, but I don't think they knew they didn't have any timeouts left.

Boyle: Back in those days, you could grab a ball falling out of bounds and call a timeout before you landed. And Anthony Mason did that earlier in the game for no reason. It was in the second quarter. He was simply saving a possession. And as a consequence, the Knicks didn't have a timeout at the end.

Brown: You knew with limited time on the clock...you naturally try to get the ball into Reggie's hands. I'm sure the Knicks figured that stuff out, (but) one of their best defenders (Harper) had gotten kicked out of the game...We got the ball in Reggie's hands...it was a great individual effort for him to get open, and then he had his back to the basket and turned around and squared up and made a three.

Walsh: The first shot that Reggie made, that's what Reggie did.

After the shot went in, Miller was initially guarding John Starks, but switched onto Greg Anthony. The two players collided and Anthony fell to the ground just as Anthony Mason was attempting to inbound to him. Miller collected the steal, then quickly dribbled back beyond the arc before hoisting another three to tie the game with 13.2 seconds remaining.

Brown: We were able to set up kind of a press after we scored. I was hopeful...we'd talked about that. We usually talk about the good stuff happening first. If we make the first shot, what do we do next.

Mitchell: I remember distinctly when Anthony Mason was taking the ball out, he stumbled. He started leaning in, and he was about to lean over and get a violation. He just kind of flipped it out there.

Miller: When I made the quick three, it was going to be a scramble situation. I saw Anthony Mason kind of leaning and tipping over the line. And he threw the best chest pass I've ever seen in my life, right to me. I knew immediately I easily could have gone in for the lay-in, but I said let me get back to the three and tie 'er up and that's what happened.

Walsh: I get in the locker room and I'm walking around in circles and I hear a knock on the door. And it's (Director of Player Personnel) Mel Daniels...and he said, "Reggie just tied the game." I sat there and I said, "What are you talking about?"

With the crowd still in shock at what had just unfolded, Sam Mitchell fouled Starks on the ensuing inbound.

Mitchell: I reached out and I grabbed John Starks because I thought we were still down by one. Everything happened so fast, I lost track of the score. As soon as I fouled, I looked up and saw that the score was tied and man, I could have just shot myself right there. I felt I had blown the game.

Reggie Miller said basically, "Mitch, don't worry about it. That you-know-what is gonna choke." He said that loud so that John Starks could hear it. And as soon as he said it, John Starks turned around and started yelling at Reggie.

Jackson: Like a baseball team, we're going to cover it, we'll pick you up. That was the mindset. Sam made the mistake, an honest mistake. It wasn't the first mistake made in that game or that season. So we did what we'd become accustomed to doing, picking each other up.

Starks, who had shot 73.7 percent from the free throw line in the regular season, missed both foul shots. Ewing collected an offensive rebound on the second and attempted a quick shot, but that missed and Miller secured the rebound. Starks then fouled him with 7.5 seconds remaining.

Walsh: You could tell looking at John's face, he's so flustered by what Reggie has done. And Reggie, of course, is letting him know that he's flustered.

Mitchell: When John Starks took that first free throw and it was short, Reggie said, "Mitch, I told you that you-know-what was gonna choke. And you know if the first one's short, the second one's gonna be long." And sure enough, John Starks dribbled, got into his rhythm, and when he let that ball go, you could tell it was going to hit the back of the rim.

Jackson: You can look in John's eyes and he just wasn't as comfortable as he normally would be...And Reggie being Reggie, he got under his skin. I don't know if it played a factor, but I know it made for good TV.

Mitchell: Starks was so irate he just grabbed Reggie and fouled him...The thing that's amazing to me is they turned around and did the same thing I did earlier...I remember looking over at the Knicks bench and Pat Riley could have turned every color in the rainbow. He just couldn't believe it.

Brown: There's a lot of guys that are great players, but some guys handle pressure situations better than others. (Reggie) was one in my mind that never was afraid to take a big shot, make a big play, or make a big free throw. That's a rare gift.

Miller sank both free throws to give the Pacers the lead. Anthony then raced the ball up the floor, but slipped along the right baseline. The Knicks were unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded, as Indiana walked away with the most improbable of victories.

Brown: Next thing I know the game's over and we're all celebrating...We ended up going up 1-0. It was probably as improbable a turn of events as you could possibly have.

Smits: It just happened so fast. We were almost in shock. Not that we didn't think or know that Reggie was capable of something like that, he definitely was. But still, to see it happen...I probably was in just as much shock as the rest of Madison Square Garden. I'm just happy he was on our side that day.

Walsh: I almost fell over. I mean that's how improbable it was. And it's probably one of the greatest finishes that our team's ever been involved in.

Although it was just the first game of what would prove to be a seven-game series, Miller and the Pacers celebrated defiantly. Miller gave several memorable soundbites in his postgame interview with NBC's Dan Hicks, saying, "Mason choked, he threw it to me, I hit a three...John Starks choked, we came up big," and then closed the interview by exclaiming, "We feel we can sweep this team. This is for you, Indiana!"

Brown: He did it right in front of Spike Lee, both shots, which kind of tickles me a little bit because we all know the back and forth he had with Spike at the time. That was pretty cool.

Jackson: We loved our home court, but if you asked us where could we win the game (against) that team in particular – would we prefer to do it in Indiana or at Madison Square Garden – we would have said Madison Square Garden. Because that team in particular, we had a bunch of players that their DNA was made up of wanting to do it in enemy territory.

Smits: What a feeling that was, to shut Madison Square Garden (and) everybody up, to quiet everybody down. Even after the game, New York City seemed like they were in shock. They had that game won, or they thought they did. To come out there after the game, everything was so quiet. It was a pretty good feeling.

Mitchell: We were so excited and just so ecstatic. Coaches tell you this all the time – "Play to the end of the game. Don't stop. Play to the final horn." And you hear them and you say, "Yada yada yada...that's what they're supposed to say." But you know what? It really matters. It matters playing until the final horn, until the final seconds tick off the clock...we saw it firsthand...We won a game that we probably shouldn't have won and we’re going to be in the history books for a long time because we played until the end of the game.

The Pacers would eventually win the series thanks to another win at Madison Square Garden, a 97-95 victory in Game 7. Still, Game 1 remains the most celebrated game from that series, and likely the most memorable moment in Miller's Hall of Fame career.

Jackson: To have a front row seat to witness something that all these years later we're still talking about and still can't believe that it took place, it was special. And nobody deserved that moment more than Reg (with) all that he had put into a Pacer uniform, all that he had put into practicing and preparing and not being afraid of the bright lights.

Boyle: It was just such an unexpected finish to a game. Had he scored eight points in 8.9 seconds in the middle of the third quarter, we wouldn't remember it. But it was a game-winning sequence, it was at the end of a playoff game, and it was at Madison Square Garden.

Mitchell: In order to do that, everything's got to line up just perfect. So I don't know if it will ever happen again.

Brown: I've watched that game a lot. And it's been on TV a number of times. And every time it is, I get text messages from people that were involved in the game, coaches that I coached with, and players that I've been lucky enough to coach.

Walsh: There are moments like that in sports that you will remember 25 years later. And it was that remarkable (so) that would be one you'd pick out.

Jackson: You're sitting there going, okay, I know that we won the game, but I still cannot figure out how it happened. So you find yourself glued to the TV still looking at each sequence, each play as they happen...All these years later, it's like you're watching it for the first time. It really is a historic sequence and it couldn't have happened at a better location than Madison Square Garden.

Miller: I can't believe it has been 25 years. It's funny but in today's social media, with Twitter and Instagram or the "30 for 30, Winning Time," you can't forget. I get the video sent to me all the time. Fans, they keep the spirit alive like it just happened recently. And it occurred in the Mecca, Madison Square Garden, New York City, against the Knicks.


Editor's Note: David Benner, Celeste Ballou, and Matt Kryger contributed to this story.

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