Work in Sports
Pacers' Locker Room
Hoosier pride comes shining through in Game 5
Posted: Saturday June 17, 2000 02:26 AM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
INDIANAPOLIS -- See ya later, La-La Land!
Take that, Tinseltown!
Who's your daddy, Hollywood?!
Pride apparently can be a powerful force for a basketball team.
Fueled by a desire to prove the experts wrong -- and not wanting to watch the Lakers celebrate in their house -- the Pacers stormed onto the Conseco Fieldhouse court and handed the Lakers a 120-87 beating in Game 5 of the NBA Finals Friday night.
It was one of the worst routs in Finals history and pure vindication for Indiana, which was being fit for toe tags just two nights before after falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
"After last game, I talked about us not allowing them to celebrate on our home floor," said Pacers forward Jalen Rose, who led the way with 32 points, six rebounds and five assists. "I was serious about that. "It would be a bad feeling to end our season on."
Instead it was the Lakers who left with an Excedrin headache.
The Pacers blitzed L.A. by hitting 15-of-20 shots in the first quarter, including all six of their attempts from downtown, to take a 39-29 lead. They stretched the lead to 19 points at halftime, then held off a mini L.A. rally in the third to seal the victory.
Everything Indiana tried seemed to work. The Pacers drilled wide-open shots over sluggish L.A. defenders. They kept Shaquille O'Neal from getting those "deep touches." They even brought Kobe Bryant crashing back to Earth.
Most telling, they racked up an eye-popping 46-34 edge on the boards.
"We don't want them doing any celebrating," said Reggie Miller, who had 25 points and six assists and helped hound Bryant into 4-of-20 shooting. "We came out with a lot of energy tonight."
"I think [the difference] was our disposition," added forward Austin Croshere. "Down 3-1, you lay it all on the line and give it everything you have. When you face the possibility of your season being over, it's a lot of motivation."
Indiana's refusal to roll over shouldn't really come as a surprise, of course. The Pacers long ago proved they were tougher than the $5 steak at a Hoosier truck stop, reaching the Finals this season for the first time after four unsuccessful trips to the Eastern Conference finals.
But after losing a 120-118 overtime heartbreaker at Conseco in Game 4, many felt Indiana's band of aging warriors might not be able to get up off the canvas yet again.
"We were a little down yesterday because we felt we let a good opportunity get away," Dale Davis said. "But we came back and regrouped and played hard. Usually when this team has its back against the wall, we respond pretty well."
The Pacers indeed reacted like angry cats, swarming Shaq, pushing the ball at every opportunity and packing the lane to choke off L.A. penetration.
"We made them take shots from outside, especially after they got behind," said reserve guard Travis Best, who shook off a sore left shoulder to score five points and dish out three assists. "We also stopped their lanes to the basket, and kept them off the offensive boards."
It didn't take any pre-game pep talks from coach Larry Bird to get the juices going, either. According to several Pacers veterans, it was strictly business as usual in the Indiana locker room before the game.
"There was no need," said Best. "We knew what the situation was. We wanted to take it back to L.A."
They did -- and they restored a measure of Hoosier pride in the process.