Work in Sports
Pacers' Locker Room
Indy gets back in the series by getting tough with Lakers
Posted: Monday June 12, 2000 02:00 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- Sometime over the past couple days, the Indiana Pacers got mean. They got nasty. They grew some horns.
So now, the suddenly tough guys are back in these NBA Finals, down only 2-1 in the race to get four.
And the next two games are in the noisy, gold-heavy retro arena they call home.
Think they got the Los Angeles Lakers' attention?
"We hear a lot of talk about people wondering how long the series is going to be, when L.A. is going to put us out of our misery, and things of that nature," said the Pacers' Jalen Rose, who had 21 points in Indiana's 100-91 win Sunday night in Game 3. "We're not going out like that."
The emboldened Pacers played perhaps their best game of the series, leading from start to finish, outrebounding the bigger Lakers and forcing L.A. into 17 turnovers.
They did it by getting into the Lakers' faces, by pushing and shoving them and by double-teaming Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal into a mortal-like night.
"Aggressive" was the word floating around the cocky Pacers' locker room after their win.
The Pacers like the ring of it.
"I thought we played hard. I thought we played extremely hard. We were the aggressors," said forward Dale Davis, who had 12 points and helped hassle O'Neal into a mere 33-point, 13-rebound night. "I think we're right back in it."
Almost from the start, you could tell this was a different Pacers team than the one beaten handily in Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles. And it was way more than just the way they played the game.
The Pacers argued with the Lakers. Point guard Mark Jackson got into a little shoving match -- a little one, but one nonetheless -- with L.A.'s Ron Harper.
Indy's Reggie Miller, never one to be passive when it comes to on-court mouthing, jumped into the Lakers' midst to rescue Jackson on one occasion. Davis and the Lakers' Glen Rice were seen jawing at each other.
The Pacers were baaaaad.
In the good sense of the word.
"Mark was trapped in their huddle. He looked like a pinball ... getting bounced back and forth," Miller said of one episode. "You can't let something like that happen. So I had to go over there and save my backcourt mate."
The veteran Jackson, often called upon to restore order on the court, was making sure he did just the opposite Sunday. Miller is notorious for playing better when the talk starts flying. So Jackson made sure the talk kept flying.
"Only at one point I calmed him down a little," he said. "Any other time, I'm just trying to add fuel to the fire."
The Pacers insisted they weren't nearly as aggressive in the first two games in L.A., and that was one reason they lost both. They promised they won't let up for Game 4 Wednesday night, either.
"We're not a team that's going to be pushed around," said Rose. "We're not a team that's coming into the series like we're the JV team.
"We have to take it personal when we lose. I think we took the first two games personal, and we came out focused to win."
Maybe the most important factor in the Pacers' newfound boldness was the crowd. There were 18,345 fans in the new Conseco Fieldhouse, most waving yellow Pacers towels and wearing T-shirts that were given away at the gate.
Sunday's crowd was as rowdy as the L.A. crowds were laid- back, though Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave the Indy crowd a backhanded slap by saying that the ones in Sacramento and Portland were louder.
Whatever, the crowd at Conseco made a huge difference.
"When you have your home crowd behind you," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said, "you feel more confident, you feel more aggressive."
The Pacers could even this series with a Game 4 win, and could take the lead with a home sweep in Game 5 on Friday.
No team ever has won the middle three games of a series at home since the league instituted the 2-3-2 format in 1985. But the big, bad, bold Pacers may just be up to the task.
If they can stay really baaaaad.