Work in Sports
In the driver's seat
Pacers regain control with 109-96 win over Bucks
Posted: Sunday April 30, 2000 03:54 AM
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Humility has never been Reggie Miller's strong suit. After his latest playoff performance, it's easy to see why.
Miller scored 34 points with a vintage barrage of outside shots as the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 109-96 Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in their confrontational playoff series.
"It was going to take a Superman-type effort for us to get a victory," Miller said. "I was feeling Supermannish."
With a sellout Bradley Center crowd booing his every move, Miller turned in yet another amazing postseason effort. Almost sSingle-handedly, he staved off a fired-up Milwaukee team aching for its first home playoff win in a decade.
Miller, who was largely shut down by Ray Allen in the series' first two games in Indianapolis, scored 16 points in the third quarter as the Pacers turned a 12-point deficit into a three-point lead in less than six minutes.
"That's Reggie just saying, 'We're going to win,'" said Jalen Rose, who had 27 points. "That's him telling us to get our act together and start acting like the best team in the East."
Indiana, the Eastern Conference's top seed, can clinch the series with another road victory in Game 4 on Monday night.
The game was marred by the ejections of Milwaukee's Sam Cassell and Indiana's Dale Davis with six minutes to play. The players confronted each other and received double technical fouls for the second time in another intensely physical game between bitter rivals.
After Milwaukee pulled within 87-85 with eight minutes to play, Miller and Rose keyed a 13-2 run that sealed the victory. Rose finished with 27 points, hitting three straight long shots during the deciding sequence.
As impressive as Miller's game was, it could have been even better. He was just 4-of-14 on 3-pointers, most of which were wide open as Milwaukee's on-and-off defense was decidedly off again.
"I'm still upset with myself because I had so many open 3s tonight," Miller said. "I should have finished with 50 points."
When Rose hit a deep 3-pointer with 2:45 left to put Indiana up 100-87, normally unemotional Indiana coach Larry Bird pumped his first and screamed, "Yes!" at the heckling Milwaukee crowd.
"If we worked hard on defense, we were going to win the ballgame," Bird said. "We all stayed focused much more than we did earlier in the series."
Indiana's Travis Best scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 1:32 left that made it 105-91.
Allen and Glenn Robinson each scored 26 points to lead Milwaukee, but they had just five points apiece in the fourth quarter as Indiana pulled away. Cassell had 13 points and 12 assists, but the Bucks floundered on offense when their point guard was ejected.
"They played a lot harder than they did in Game 2 [a 104-91 Bucks victory]," Allen said. "They took some tough shots, and they made them. [Miller] made some shots that didn't fall last time."
Center Rik Smits watched the game from the Pacers' hotel while serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Ervin Johnson in Game 2. Austin Croshere started in Smits' place, but only after Bird wrote Zan Tabak's name on the lineup card and then crossed it out.
Croshere, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Johnson waged a fierce battle under the boards in a game that had an old-fashioned mean-spiritedness to it. The two ejections were only the capper of a night filled with shoves, smacks and hard fouls.
Cassell and Davis were assessed technicals for a brief confrontation in the third quarter in which harsh words were exchanged but little else. Davis appeared to shove the ball into Cassell's stomach when Cassell was trying to take the ball out of bounds, and they were separated by Johnson.
The two briefly confronted each other again with six minutes left in the game, and the resulting technicals meant both were ejected. Both benches thought the whistles and the technicals were undeserved.
"It's incredible to me why you would take two All-Star players off the court when it's not necessary," Milwaukee coach George Karl said. "There was nothing done there."
Seconds after the ejections, someone in the crowd threw a giveaway T-shirt on the court, and someone else nearly hit referee Mark Wunderlich with a pack of gum.
The Bucks led 71-59 on Allen's jumper with 7:10 left in the third. Miller then went to work, scoring 14 of Indiana's next 18 points and reclaiming the lead for the Pacers in just six minutes of play.
The Bradley Center, normally among the NBA's quietest arenas, was nothing short of electric for the Bucks' most meaningful game in a decade. Fans arrived downtown hours before tipoff, some sporting purple-and-green body paint or full-body deer costumes complete with horns.
The Bucks, who had the worst home record of the 16 playoff teams, almost seemed taken aback by their sudden home-court advantage and their screaming, towel-waving fans.
Notes: Karl coached his 100th playoff game. ... Darvin Ham, the
Bucks' sparkplug forward, bricked two critical free throws with
7:29 to play. Ham is frequently removed from the Bucks' lineup at
the end of games because of his inept free-throw shooting. ... The
Bucks are trying to become just the third eighth-seeded team to
beat a No. 1 seed. Denver beat Seattle in 1994, and the Knicks
knocked off Miami last season. ... After Cassell and Davis were
ejected, Robinson and Best yapped at each other for nearly a minute
while their teammates separated them. ... Rose exchanged words with
a heckler when he came back on the court to do a postgame
interview. "The price of your ticket don't pay for you to talk
stupid to me!" Rose yelled.