Work in Sports
Once again, fourth quarter fails to become Miller Time
Posted: Tuesday June 20, 2000 01:57 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The script was laid out for Reggie Miller. Yet for the fourth time in the NBA Finals, he inexplicably seemed to forget his lines at the most dramatic moment.
Miller was held to one field goal in the final quarter as Los Angeles beat the Indiana Pacers 116-111 in Game 6 Monday night, giving the Lakers the NBA championship.
"We were measuring it like a heavyweight fight," Miller said. "We wanted to win each quarter, and count those as rounds. We won the first three rounds but lost the most important one, and that was the fourth round."
Miller made himself famous during his career by seizing control in the fourth quarter, but he couldn't produce during the final period of four critical games in his first trip to the NBA Finals.
On Monday night, he finished with 25 points but only four came in the fourth quarter. And with that, Indiana's chances of forcing a decisive seventh game evaporated.
Still, his teammates refused to single him out.
"Reggie has been our go-to guy all year," forward Austin Croshere said. "Win or lose, we're all going to go with him."
Only a long jumper with 2:41 on the clock that pulled the Pacers within 110-105 ended Miller's drought. He also heaved a desperation 3-pointer that missed at the buzzer, making him 8-of-19 from the field for the game and 1-of-4 in the fourth quarter.
"Reggie played hard," coach Larry Bird said. "He played great."
Miller shared a few congratulatory hugs with some of the Lakers, then walked wistfully off the court and to the Pacers' locker room.
In the first three games of the series, Miller failed to produce a fourth-quarter field goal. Two of those games were at the Staples Center, and that must have made it a difficult performance for Miller to digest.
He grew up in Riverside, a one-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles, and he was a college star at UCLA. And he was playing in his first NBA Finals in front of several family members and close friends.
"Anytime you get a chance to play in your hometown, you really want to show up and play well," forward Jalen Rose said. "We're all disappointed for Reggie, but we're also disappointed that we didn't find a way to win."
Credit Ron Harper's defense for blanketing Miller, who shot a dismal 1-of-16 in Game 1. Still, his teammates weren't about to complain about Miller's effort in the series.
The Pacers had a good game plan and executed it well for 3 1/2 quarters. And it wasn't just Miller.
"The Lakers really stepped up their defense," Croshere said. "They got some loose balls and some offensive rebounds."
After winning Game 5 back home in Indiana by 33 points, the Pacers knew they needed to carry the momentum back to Los Angeles. They also knew they had to shoot well at the cavernous Staples Center to keep the game close early.
"What we wanted to do was get into the game quickly, which we did," Miller said.
When Mark Jackson swished an over-the-shoulder shot from near halfcourt at the first-quarter horn, the Pacers had the early lead they needed and it seemed it could be a magical night for Indiana.
Miller, for his part, scored 11 points by halftime and padded it with 10 in the third quarter as Indiana took an 84-79 lead in the fourth.
But the Lakers patiently chipped at the deficit, taking their first lead since the first quarter at 91-90 with 9:02 remaining. After that, Miller and the Pacers were on their heels.
Nonetheless, Miller called it a great season and said he leaves feeling a sense of accomplishment.
"I've always watched the Finals in years past," he said. "The teams that win it, they make the plays and make things happen. We were a couple bounces away here and there from making those plays."