Work in Sports
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Reggie Miller didn't score 40 points. Neither did Jalen Rose. And even with a late stumble, the Indiana Pacers still won rather easily.
Miller and Rose got some help from Austin Croshere as the Pacers remained red-hot and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-97, to open a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
After barely getting out of the first round against Milwaukee, top-seeded Indiana has looked like an entirely different team against Philadelphia. Taking advantage of mismatches and using crisp passing, the Pacers have outclassed the 76ers and again are threatening to make this a very short series.
Miller, who had scored at least 40 points in his last two games, had 19, including 11 in the first quarter as the Pacers got off to another quick start. He shot 7-of-16 from the field.
Rose, coming off his NBA career high, scored 13 of his 30 points in the third quarter, when Indiana put away Philadelphia. He made 9-of-19 shots.
"We had a lot of guys open out there," Rose said. "I find myself passing on open shots to get the ball to a teammate for another open shot. It's kind of funny, it makes me smile. It's basketball the way I like to play it."
But the key was Croshere, a third-year reserve forward with an inside-outside game. He made all four of his 3-pointers and scored a playoff career-high 20 points, including 12 in the decisive second quarter -- which looked a lot like the first quarter of Game One.
"I didn't feel like I carried my weight in the first round and wanted to come out and give a lot more to this team in the second round, just trying to come out and playing with energy," Croshere said.
"I think Austin played a fantastic overall game," Miller said.
"He was very aggressive, taking the ball to the hole and when they collapsed, he recognized when to take the 3."
The Pacers led by 26 points late in the third quarter and tried to coast home. After being outplayed for three quarters, the Sixers dug in and cut the deficit to 95-88 with 2:44 remaining.
But Allen Iverson and George Lynch missed open 3-pointers and Indiana stabilized behind Rose, who sank six free throws in the final 75 seconds.
"It felt good to finish strong. We didn't give up," Iverson said. "But I've been in this league long enough now that moral victories don't mean anything."
Mark Jackson triggered the offense with 14 assists for Indiana, which is halfway toward its second straight conference semifinal sweep of Philadelphia. The Pacers won Game Two last year in similar fashion.
Iverson had 28 points and a playoff career-high 10 assists for the Sixers, who are losing players and games. Point guard Eric Snow aggravated the chip fracture in his right ankle in the third quarter, did not return and is done for the series. He will have an MRI on Tuesday and expects the ankle to be put in a cast.
"I probably made a mistake (coming back)," Snow said as tears welled up in his eyes. "I showed a lot of heart but not too much intelligence."
"I want him in the foxhole with us, but if he's hurt that bad, he can't take a chance with his career," Iverson said. "We can win without Eric. We've won without Eric; they've won without me."
Game Three is Wednesday in Philadelphia, where the Sixers have lost once since March 10 -- a 92-90 setback to Indiana on April 17.
"We held serve," Miller said. "Let's see what they do with the pressure of holding home court."
The Pacers, who have not trailed in the series, actually came out hotter than in Game One, when they shot 67 percent in the first quarter. Led by Miller, they shot 68 percent (13-of-19) and grabbed a 31-26 lead. Iverson matched Miller with 11 points and kept the Sixers close.
But Philadelphia unraveled in the second period, missing its first six shots as Indiana scored eight straight points to open a 39-26 lead with 10:04 to go.
Croshere had a layup in that surge but was just heating up. He hit a pair of 3-pointers around a 19-footer, then added two free throws to cap a 14-4 burst that gave the Pacers a 53-35 lead with 2:10 left.
"We needed some other guys to step up and make shots," Croshere said. "I thought we had some great ball movement in the first half and you know I got a lot of open looks."
Indiana held a 55-40 halftime lead, collecting 19 assists on 22 baskets. In the second quarter, Croshere made 4-of-5 shots and the Sixers made 4-of-19. The Pacers were in complete control despite big men Rik Smits and Dale Davis sitting out the entire period.
"We were not the aggressors in the first half and that is disappoiting because we talked about it a lot before the game," 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "They got the loose balls, they rebounded, they executed."
In the third quarter, Rose picked up where Croshere left off. He scored eight points in the first four minutes to push the margin to 68-45 and Snow exited seconds later.
Another 3-pointer by Croshere gave Indiana its largest lead at 79-53 with 4:08 left in the period and the Pacers took an 84-63 advantage into the final quarter.
"The way they rotated -- they had a big man coming out on a smaller player -- just started a chain reaction," Croshere said.
"We just got a lot of ball movement and eventually somebody is going to be open."
Iverson scored 10 points in the fourth and Indiana went the final 7:27 without a basket. Philadelphia pulled within 99-95 on Iverson's jumper with 13 seconds remaining but got no closer.
"We never felt a sense of urgency, I thought," Iverson said. "We played like we were up three games."
Croshere, who was recovering from plantar fasciatis, suffered a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter.
"(I) was able to walk it off a little bit, but it's pretty sore, pretty swollen," he said. "Hopefully it won't get any worse overnight."
Smits scored 14 points for the Pacers, who shot 49 percent (37-of-76), including 8-of-21 from behind the arc, and made 21-of-25 free throws.
Theo Ratliff and Tyrone Hill finished strong with 15 points each for the Sixers, who shot 44 percent (34-of-78). They made just 3-of-13 3-pointers and 26-of-37 free throws.