Work in Sports
MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Although the Indiana Pacers were the shorthanded team, it was the Milwaukee Bucks who felt dejection after an ejection.
Reggie Miller scored 34 points and the Pacers put together a decisive fourth-quarter run that featured a scuffle and a pair of ejections to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, 109-96, in the pivotal third game of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The top-seeded Pacers came in having squandered the home-court advantage with a loss in Game Two and were without center Rik Smits, who was suspended one game for throwing a flagrant elbow at Bucks center Ervin Johnson.
Indiana trailed by 12 points midway through the third quarter but rallied to take an 81-78 lead entering the final period behind Miller, who scored 16 points in a seven-minute stretch.
"I wanted to be more aggressive this game," Miller said. "I had so many open 3s, I should have had 50 points. We needed a Superman-type effort for a victory, and I did just that."
Midway through the fourth quarter, Pacers All-Star forward Dale Davis and Bucks guard Sam Cassell got into it underneath the basket for the second time in the game.
Both players were assessed their second technical fouls and ejected. That left the Pacers without their top two frontcourt players but also left the Bucks without their floor general, and Milwaukee never recovered.
"That's what playoff basketball is all about," Davis said.
"We're a team that's not going to back down from anyone and if it gets ugly, it gets ugly. We had a little stare-off and that was about it. I didn't agree with the call."
"I can understand the first one," Cassell said. "The second one, I don't have any clue. He bumped me, I bumped him. He threw the ball at me, I threw it back at him. I think they (referees) tried to keep control of the game. They knew what happened in Game Two."
Bucks coach George Karl was upset that the officials did not let the players decide the game.
"It took our hope away," he said. "It's incredible to take two All-Star (caliber) players off the court when it's not necessary. There was nothing there. ... Incredible, unnecessary, incredible."
Jalen Rose, who scored 27 points, capped a 15-2 burst with a pair of 3-pointers that gave Indiana a 102-87 lead with 2:45 remaining. The Pacers cruised from there -- improving to 19-0 in revenge games -- and can wrap up the series with a win in Game Four here on Monday.
"I think we can win Monday," Karl said. "In fact, I think we will win Monday and then we go to Indy and it's a one-game series."
Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson scored 26 points apiece for the Bucks, who scored only 38 points on 36 percent shooting (15-of-42) in the second half. Cassell had 13 points and 12 assists.
"(The ejection) took some momentum out of us when Sam left," Allen said. "After that, some guys had to play out of position."
Coming off their first playoff win in 10 years, the Bucks blew a golden opportunity to put the pressure on the Pacers, losing to them for the 14th time in the last 17 meetings. Indiana swept Milwaukee in last year's first round.
The Pacers trailed by seven points at halftime and 71-59 after Allen's jumper with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter. But Miller caught fire, scoring 12 straight Indiana points. He hit a pair of 3-pointers around a jumper by Allen and added two free throws, a jumper and a layup.
"He put us on his back," Pacers guard Mark Jackson said. "We were on the ropes and had every reason to quit."
"Reggie Miller hit, I think, three big 3s in the third quarter," Cassell said. "He did what he does best -- made big shots."
With 2 1/2 minutes to go in the period, Cassell shoved Davis on a rebound and Davis shoved back. Both players were hit with technicals and calmed down.
Two more free throws by Miller put the Pacers ahead for good at 77-76 with 1:30 remaining. He made another jumper to close the quarter and his teammates covered for his brief cold spell in the final period.
Travis Best, who scored 18 points, wrapped jumpers around a 3-pointer by Allen to push the lead to 87-81 with 9:09 to play.
Robinson and Tim Thomas hit jumpers to cut the deficit to two points and the Bucks had a chance to tie when Darvin Ham was fouled with 7:29 left. But the 45 percent free-throw shooter missed both and the Pacers began their clinching run.
Best made two foul shots and Derrick McKey hit a jumper before Davis and Cassell tussled and were tossed with 5:53 remaining.
Rose sank a long jumper and Miller -- who had missed four in a row -- drilled a 3-pointer for a 96-85 lead with 4:48 to go.
Allen hit a jumper before Rose struck twice from long range.
Rose also made a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the final period of Indiana's 88-85 win in Game One.
Austin Croshere started for Smits and collected 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who shot 49 percent (41-of-84). Miller made 13-of-27 shots and Rose sank 11-of-17.
Thomas scored 12 points and Johnson grabbed 13 rebounds for the Bucks, who shot 46.5 percent (40-of-86) and held a 42-35 edge on the glass.
Indiana had the advantage at the lines. The Pacers made 9-of-22 from 3-point range and 18-of-19 free throws while the Bucks were 3-of-16 and 13-of-19.
Robinson scored 12 points in the first quarter as Milwaukee grabbed a 26-23 lead. Allen had 11 in the second period as the Bucks built the advantage to 58-51 at halftime. Miller kept the Pacers in it with 15 points.