Work in Sports
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The changing of the guard for the Indiana Pacers continues.
Down the stretch, it was Jalen Rose, not Reggie Miller, who crushed the hopes of the Milwaukee Bucks, scoring 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to carry the Pacers to an 88-85 victory in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Rose fell one point shy of his playoff career high and Dale Davis grabbed 17 rebounds, also one shy of a postseason career best, and came within one of his playoff high with four blocked shots. Miller scored 21 points and Mark Jackson added 11 assists.
The top-seeded Pacers will host Game Two on Thursday.
Miller, a player who has always revelled in the role of bad guy, drawing inspiration from the boos when the Pacers play on the road, came into the playoffs averaging 23.0 points per game in 78 postseason appearances over nine years. He is the all-time league leader in postseason 3-pointers, many of them daggers stuck in the hearts of opponents in the closing moments of close games.
Tonight it was left to Rose, a player who generally has let his playing do his talking, to take the heart out of Milwaukee both with his offense and with his defense on Bucks forward Glenn Robinson, who was held to 11 points. He came into the game averaging just 10.0 in 31 postseason games -- 28 with Indiana and three with Denver.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Rose said. "In the fourth quarter our guys did a good job getting me open and I knocked down a couple of shots, but the main thing was that we kept our composure."
The Bucks trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, but they charged back late in the third quarter and, after Tim Thomas nailed a 3-pointer and a jumper in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter, grabbed a 67-62 lead with 9:57 left.
Rose led the Pacers on a 17-4 run over the next five minutes, scoring 10 points, including a 3-pointer that put Indiana up 78-71 with 4:38 to play.
"I actually wanted him to shoot that shot," said Robinson, who was guarding Rose on the play. "I wanted him to shoot a 3-pointer with contest. I got a good contest up on him, and he made a tough shot."
Ray Allen scored eight points over the next two minutes, helping the Bucks claw within 83-82 when he nailed a 3-pointer with 2:20 remaining.
Travis Best hit a pair of jumpers around a drive by Allen, leaving the Pacers with an 87-84 lead with 47 seconds to go. Sam Cassell drew a foul on Best but made just 1-of-2 free throws with 43 seconds left, cutting the deficit to two points.
"Our defense really picked up after halftime, but (Rose and Best) hit some tough shots down the stretch," Cassell said.
Miller missed an open jumper, but Davis got a hand on the rebound and the ball went out of bounds off the Bucks. When Indiana inbounded, Cassell fouled Rose, who went 1-of-2 from the line with 17 seconds left.
Allen missed a driving shot with Best in his face, and Thomas was off with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
"We know we can beat this club," Cassell said. "We were two stops from winning it tonight. We'll just have to see Thursday what we can do differently."
Allen led Milwaukee with 26 points and Cassell finished with 18 and six assists. Robinson was just 4-for-17 from the floor and Cassell went 6-of-17.
"I think I've already proven (what I can do)," Robinson said.
"If you look at my numbers throughout my six-year career in the NBA, I think what I can do on the court has been proven. ...
They did a good job early, trapping, getting the ball out of my hands."
The Bucks shot 31 percent in the first half but trailed only 45-34 at halftime because the Pacers managed just 35 percent.
Allen was 1-of-8 for Milwaukee, while Miller was just 2-of-9 for Indiana.
The Bucks came back in the third quarter, energized by the high-flying Darvin Ham, who scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in the period. Two of his baskets were soaring one-handed slams.
Milwaukee trailed, 58-48, with 4:52 left on the third, but Cassell, Allen and Ham led Milwaukee on a 14-4 run the rest of the quarter. Cassell scored the final six points of the spree, tying it at 62-62 with a 20-footer from the right baseline with 22 seconds left.
Indiana was the second seed last season and had no problem dispatching Milwaukee in three games. During the regular season, however, the teams split four contests.
Milwaukee won six of its last seven regular-season contests but was looking for its first victory in a playoff game since May 1, 1990, and its first postseason road win since May 8, 1989.
The Bucks have not won a playoff series since 1989 against Atlanta.