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Oh, What a Feeling!
Jack McCallum
November 07, 1994
The Indiana Pacers' Reggie Miller recalls last spring's most memorable quarter, shot by unerring shot
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November 07, 1994

Oh, What A Feeling!

The Indiana Pacers' Reggie Miller recalls last spring's most memorable quarter, shot by unerring shot

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The fifth shot was remarkable. Miller found himself directly in front of the basket, 27 feet away. He still had his dribble, and he saw Thompson heading toward him to set a possible screen, but he just squared up and let fly. The ball whistled through the net cleanly, as do most of Miller's field goals, "like somebody drops the ball straight down from the center of the arena," as Pacer president Donnie Walsh puts it. The three-pointer gave Indy a lead, at 75-72, that it never surrendered.

"Shooting is concentration and rhythm," said Miller, "and sometimes it is pure confidence. Sometimes things are going so right you feel you can will the ball into the basket. My least favorite spot on the floor with the old three-point line—there are no hard spots with the new distance—was right in front of the basket, but I never had a doubt about this one.

"When I was growing up [in Riverside, Calif.], my father had a little area of concrete for our backyard basket," Miller recalled. "My first goal was to master every shot in that area. After I did that, I said, 'Dad, we need more concrete.' Eventually we had an area that went back maybe 22 feet from the basket. Any more than that was in my mother's rose garden, and I shot from there, too. I apologize, but it paid off."

Miller's sixth basket came on a three-pointer from the right side at the 6:59 mark. The play actually began with Miller setting a pick down on the baseline. "A lot of times I begin the play by being the screener," said Miller. "That's because if a shooter goes down and sets the screen, chances are the defense won't double on the guy he's setting the screen for because that means a shooter will be free. Like with the Utah Jazz, you always see John Stockton setting the screen for Karl Ma-lone because that makes it hard for the defense. You can't slough off either one." In this case Miller eventually got free when he came off a down screen. Then he got the ball from Thompson and released a three-pointer a split second before Starks ("John was almost crying by this time," Miller said) could recover.

"There's no way to learn quick release except practice," said Miller. "The best I ever saw was Drazen Petrovic [the New Jersey Net guard who died in a car accident in Germany in June 1993]. Man, what a release. I think it's a real advantage for a shooter."

Miller's seventh basket was a fortuitous bit of business that occurred when Pacer forward Dale Davis drove to the hoop on a fast break, nearly running over Starks and the other New York guard, Derek Harper, and awkwardly passed the ball out to a wide-open Miller. Standing just a few feet from the Knick bench and their wildly gesticulating coach, Pat Riley, Miller drained his fifth and final three-pointer of the quarter. (Why Starks by this point was not stuck on Miller like flypaper is anyone's guess.)

After Miller released the shot, he kept his right arm extended in the air for a few seconds, a gesture that has infuriated opponents in the past. "I don't do it to taunt anyone," Miller said. "I do it because when my father taught me to shoot, he taught me to extend that arm and keep it up there real high. That's how you assure yourself that you're following through." That's probably true, but by now Miller is clearly aware of the taunting aspect, too.

"I also keep my eyes on the ball after I let it go, whereas most players watch the basket," he said. "But if I watch the ball, I can see the rotation, the way it looks in the air, and maybe learn something for the next shot. I watched Joe Dumars when we were teammates on Dream Team II, and he does the same thing."

Miller's eighth and final field goal came at 3:24 and gave Indiana an 83-79 lead. Moving left to right, he took a pass from forward Derrick McKey and simply jumped over the 6'5" Starks, who was now playing him tight, to release a 19-footer. Nothing but net.

"I don't really distinguish between long jumpers and short jumpers," said Miller. "The more important difference is which way I'm moving. That kind of shot, moving toward the right, is obviously a more natural shot for a righthander because you're making the catch on the same side of your body where you're going to go up for the shot. I get that off faster and almost always lean in toward the basket.

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