Smits is a native of Holland with a deft outside touch. Antonio Davis, though an NBA rookie, has played three years in Europe and speaks a smidgen of Greek. Mitchell and Dale Davis are able to converse in French. McKey, who arrived in November in a trade with Seattle for forward Detlef Schrempf, is merely all-American. Somehow, this motley tag team did its job, especially on Saturday when it harassed the foul-plagued Shaq-Fu into 3-for-8 shooting.
How did the Pacer defenders do it? Communication. "I just try to push him out as far as possible," says Antonio Davis. "Then when he does get the ball, I turn and scream for help."
Beside sharing a surname, Antonio and Dale share a skewed sense of humor. For a home game against the Dallas Mavericks in February, they bought tickets for anyone who could prove his or her last name was Davis, and 1,975 Davises showed up. "I guess it would have been cheaper if our last name was Krystkowiak," said Dale, referring to Magic power forward Larry Krystkowiak.
•The Human Shaqrifice: Point guard Vern Fleming and power forward LaSalle Thompson have taken more than their share of lumps from O'Neal. Fleming, a 10-year veteran who holds the Indiana record for NBA games played (761), is also the Lady Byng of basketball. He has never drawn a technical foul in any of those contests, a league record.
Fleming might have been forgiven if he had picked up his first T on April 2, when O'Neal crashed onto him from behind as Fleming was completing a breakaway layup. The carnage: five lost teeth, 15 stitches in his knee—and no foul call on Shaq. "Everyone else was running down to the other end of the court," says Fleming, "and I was on the ground looking for my teeth."
Thompson broke his left hand against Shaq in the third quarter of Game 1. "I just put my hand under his arm going for a rebound," said Thompson afterward, "and then it was broken."
•Honest Workman: O.K., so he's a single entity, but journeyman (three NBA teams since 1989-90) point guard Haywoode Workman has done the work of three men this year. Signed as a free agent in September, Workman was to spell Fleming, whose job it was to back up incumbent starter Pooh Richardson. But Richardson went down with an injured calf in December, and the flash-free Workman proved more reliable than Fleming. He has owned the point ever since and is a bargain. Workman's compensation for the season: $325,000. His contribution in those crucial Games 1 and 2 wins: 23 points, 21 assists and only six turnovers.
•A Touch of Brown: "Larry's the key," Miller says of Brown, now coaching his sixth pro team, seventh if you count the Los Angeles Clippers. "Larry's a teacher. For him it starts with defense and unselfishness, principles we haven't always had." Another missing element has been playoff experience. In the past the Pacers were, like this year's Magic, ever-green. That's why Byron Scott, the leading active playoff scorer, was signed as a free agent in December. "At our first practice alter the All-Star break, Byron brought his three championship rings," says Richardson. "He showed us what it's all about: not waiting for others to do the job, but getting it done yourself."
The Tao of Pooh?
"No, that's Byron's philosophy," says Richardson. "He brought that with him."