Work in Sports
PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- This time, Reggie Miller got all the help he needed from Travis Best and Sam Perkins.
Miller scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and Best and Perkins made clutch baskets down the stretch as the Indiana Pacers rallied from an eight-point deficit and posted a 97-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and a commanding 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Pacers can complete a sweep of the Sixers in the East semifinals for the second straight season with a win here on Saturday. No team has ever won an NBA playoff series after losing the first three games.
"We came up with big stops when we had to and we knew we were going to make a big run," Miller said. "We had our biggest run when it was most important."
Ironically, Miller scored 29 points when Indiana took a 3-0 lead over the Sixers last season with a 97-86 win at Philadelphia.
In the first two games of this series, Philadelphia had problems containing forward Jalen Rose, who scored a total of 70 points. Tonight, they held Rose to 12 on 5-of-15 shooting, but Best and Perkins gave Miller all the assistance he needed in crunch time.
Best finished with 19 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
"I felt good when I was out there," Best said. "I wanted to make Allen (Iverson) or whoever was guarding me work hard. I was just knocking down shots."
"Travis was huge," Rose said. "He was taking it strong to the basket and executing the screen and roll."
Perkins played 32 minutes because Rik Smits was in foul trouble and Austin Croshere was nursing an injury and scored eight of his 12 points in the final quarter.
Allen Iverson led the 76ers with 29 points, but he was held to just two field goals and 10 points in the second half. He was 9-of-21 from the field and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
"We didn't do the things that it took to win," Iverson said. "We had an eight-point lead and lost it in about a minute. That's all on our defense. We didn't execute well on offense. We kept the ball on one side of the floor. We didn't move the ball around, and move their defense."
Aaron McKie started for the injured Eric Snow and scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Snow aggravated the chip fracture in his right ankle in Game Two and will miss the rest of the series.
After a 12-2 run helped Philadelphia open a 73-65 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Pacers scored 11 straight points.
Perkins and Miller hit back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite the run and Best tied it at 73-73 with a 16-foot jumper from the right side with 9:38 left.
"We worked hard to get a lead and then they hit two big threes just as quick as could be and let all the wind out of our sails," 76ers coach Larry Brown said.
After Tyrone Hill missed a pair of free throws for the Sixers, Miller buried another 3-pointer with 8:59 left to give Indiana the lead for good. McKie hit a basket from the top of the key for the Sixers, but Miller converted a free throw after an illegal defense technical and Best capped a 14-2 spurt with a pair of free throws, giving the Pacers a 79-75 advantage with 7:32 left.
A three-point play by McKie pulled the Sixers within 81-80 with 5:57 left, but Best hit a 19-foot jumper from the right corner with 5:40 remaining.
After McKie converted 1-of-2 free throws, Miller nailed a 19-foot jumper from the right sideline to give the Pacers an 85-81 advantage with 5:02 left.
A running jumper by Iverson with 4:42 remaining, his first field goal of the second half, again pulled the Sixers within two.
However, with a chance to tie, Iverson turned the ball over and Miller connected on a 15-foot jumper from the right corner, giving the Pacers an 87-83 lead with 3:32 left.
After Iverson converted a pair of free throws, Perkins hit a sweeping hook shot in the lane with 2:51 left. Following a missed jumper by McKie, Best was fouled by Iverson and converted 1-of-2 free throws.
A running banker by Iverson pulled Philadelphia within 90-87 with 1:56 left, but Perkins responded with a 3-pointer from the left side with 1:39 remaining.
Hill converted a layup with 1:28 left, but Best beat Iverson off the dribble and scored a layup to restore Indiana's six-point lead with 1:11 remaining.
Miller scored the final points of the game on a fastbreak dunk off a pass from Best with 23 seconds left.
Philadelphia fans threw debris on the court after Miller's dunk, forcing Brown to grab a microphone and scold the fans.
"I was crushed," Brown said of the fans reaction. "Our fans are phenomenal in terms of their enthusiasm for us, but I hate to see it end like that. I'm sure it's very, very, very few people."
With Best and Perkins leading the way, Indiana's bench outscored the Sixers' reserves, 31-10, and the Pacers virtually played without Croshere, who had a playoff career-high 20 points in Game Two but was limited to two minutes tonight due to a sprained right knee.
Dale Davis grabbed 17 rebounds and scored 10 points for Indiana and Hill had 14 boards along with 10 points for the Sixers.
Unlike the first two games when the Sixers put themselves in a hole with double-digit first-half deficits, this time Philadelphia raced to a 13-5 lead in the first seven minutes with Iverson and McKie accounting for all of the points.
Miller scored three straight baskets to pull Indiana within two and the Sixers held a 23-22 lead at the end of the quarter.
Indiana took its biggest lead of the first half, 29-25 after a basket by Miller, but the Sixers responded with an 11-2 run.
Toni Kukoc, who finished with just four points, capped the spurt with a basket from the left side, giving the Sixers a 36-31 advantage.
Neither team held more than a three-point lead in the third quarter until the Sixers closed the third quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 70-65 advantage. Theo Ratliff highlighted the spurt with a dunk over Davis.
A three-point play by Kevin Ollie to start the fourth quarter increased Philadelphia's lead to 73-65.