Pacers take Game 3 from Sixers, go for sweep Sunday
Posted: Saturday May 22, 1999 12:03 PM
Already poised and playoff-tested, the Pacers are even more so when transported to a building filled with screaming people who despise them.
Miller, one of the best pressure performers of his generation, scored 29 points Friday night as the unshakable Pacers moved one game away from sweeping the Philadelphia 76ers with a 97-86 victory in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Miller, who thrived once again on taunts from the crowd and bounced right up from a couple of hard fouls, buried the Sixers with a 3-pointer that gave Indiana a 93-77 lead with 3:11 left after Philadelphia got within four points.
"It's beautiful, I love it," Miller said of the fans who spitefully chanted his name early in the game. "I can't play at home. I play much better on the road."
The Pacers, who survived late runs by the Sixers in Games 1 and 2, did the same for the final three quarters of Game 3. This time, they never gave up the lead and can sweep Philadelphia with a victory in Game 4 on Sunday.
Allen Iverson led the Sixers with 32 points, but needed 33 shots to do it. After he cut Indiana's lead to 77-73 with a three-point play with 9:38 left, the Pacers picked Philadelphia apart with a 16-4 run that gave them their biggest lead, 16 points.
"I got caught up in the game and I tried to do too much," said Iverson, who flipped the ball disgustedly after stepping out of bounds in the final minutes.
Iverson was 13-for-33 from the field, falling 15 shots short of the NBA playoff record for field goal attempts held by Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry. Matt Geiger, Philadelphia's starting center at 7-foot-1, had 11 points but did not have a rebound in 27 minutes.
As a result, Indiana is one win away from their fourth trip to the conference finals in five years. The Sixers face the task of coming back from a 3-0 deficit, which no team has ever done in a seven-game NBA playoff series.
"We might as well be first," Sixers coach Larry Brown said with little conviction. "I didn't like them hanging their heads at the end. We've done a lot of good things in this building. I just hope we have a chance to bounce back and extend them."
Miller, decked by Geiger and then Tyrone Hill, said, "I'd be surprised if we come close to sweeping them. I'm sure Coach will give them a Knute Rockne speech."
The Pacers snapped Philadelphia's 10-game home winning streak dating to the regular season, absolutely oblivious to what longtime courtside observers said was the Sixers' loudest crowd in at least 30 years.
"This doesn't bother us," Jackson said. "It's not like we haven't been in these situations before."
Geiger and rookie Larry Hughes both had emphatic dunks, and Philadelphia cut Indiana's lead to 77-73 on Iverson's three-point play with 9:38 left.
The Pacers' response? Much like their coach, Larry Bird, used to do. Stay cool.
Jackson loosened up the defense with a 3-pointer, and Jalen Rose hit a jumper after Indiana swung the ball beautifully twice. Jackson backed in for an easy basket, Dale Davis dunked and Miller hit a 3-pointer -- all this while the Sixers went 5 1/2 minutes without a field goal -- for three of Indiana's uncharacteristic 19 fastbreak points. The Sixers had three.
"I was very pleased the way the crowd was on him," Bird said of Miller's 3-pointer. "It gets him going."
The building came back to life when Philadelphia went on a 12-3 run to cut it to 45-41. Iverson dished a nifty pass to Theo Ratliff for a dunk, converted an alley-oop layup from Eric Snow and made a driving layup during the run, which came after five Indiana reserves kept it close for the first 7 1/2 minutes of the quarter.
The Pacers were again not fazed. Miller dribbled in for a fastbreak dunk off a miss by Iverson, and Dale Davis threw down a vicious one-handed stuff on an offensive rebound to make it 49-41 at halftime.
Notes: Spike Lee, who has sat courtside at Knicks games since 1985, said in a Philadelphia Inquirer column Friday that he wants a courtside seat in the First Union Center if Philadelphia plays New York. If the Knicks don't get to face Miller, his longtime nemesis, which Sixers player will Lee heckle? "I love Allen Iverson, but what happened between Reggie and me was special," Lee said. "That can't be duplicated." It appears as though it might be, now. ... Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis performed the rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" that won them an Emmy Award in 1995. They have performed at an NBA All-Star game, World Series and the last game played at the Boston Garden.
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