Pacers, Reggie Miller Need Comeback
Apr. 26, 2003
BOSTON (AP) _ If Reggie Miller continues shooting the way he did in his last playoff game, his Indiana Pacers might not play many more.
But don't expect Indiana's career playoff scoring leader to stop firing jumpers Sunday when the Boston Celtics take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 against the Pacers.
``The series is far from over,'' Miller said.
In Thursday's 101-83 loss in Boston, Miller missed all seven of his shots, despite being open on many of them. During the regular season, he failed to make a field goal in only four of his 70 games.
``I should have shot it more'' in Game 3, Miller said.
That's what his teammate figure he'll do when the Pacers try to even the best-of-seven series and return homecourt advantage to Indiana.
``He'll bounce back, I'm sure,'' Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. ``I'm not concerned about that at all.''
Jamaal Tinsley isn't worried about his backcourt mate.
``He's going to be there when we need him,'' Tinsley said. ``That's a guy we all believe in. Knowing that he's going to have some nights like that, we still give him the ball. My job is to get him shots.''
Miller's regular-season shooting percentage of .441 was the third-worst of his 16 NBA seasons, and his 12.6-point average was the lowest by more than seven points.
At age 37, Miller's is no longer a consistent threat. He made just 281 field goals, the fewest in his career.
The Celtics realize he still can be dangerous.
``He's a great player,'' Paul Pierce said after practice Saturday. ``He's one of the best playoff performers there is. So you know he's going to really come out and have his guys ready, as he's going to be ready.''
The Pacers also need more consistency from Jermaine O'Neal. He's averaging 22.7 points and 15 rebounds in the series, but was held to just one shot in the second half Thursday night. He missed it.
Walter McCarty, Tony Battie and Mark Blount took turns guarding him.
``They're doing a great job,'' Antoine Walker said. The Pacers ``are coming down every time looking for Jermaine O'Neal.
``It's very difficult to ask a guy to stop a guy who's trying to post up every time. This is a guy who's very hard (to defend) and is very strong and physical.''
The Celtics had one of their most well-balanced games of the season Thursday night when six players scored at least 12 points, led by Pierce's 21. Four players had at least five assists, and five had at least five rebounds.
Boston also led in flagrant fouls, 2-0, but Indiana had a 5-0 edge in technicals. There has been plenty of physical play throughout the series.
``Boston's been hammering us pretty hard,'' Thomas said. ``If they want to continue to push and shove, we'll go to the free throw line and make throws.''
The Pacers were 27-of-36 from the line in Game 3. But they made only 26 of 80 field goal attempts (32.5 percent), going 8-for-31 in the second half.
And they went 14 minutes, 19 seconds without a field goal before Erick Strickland connected with 4:09 remaining and little doubt about the outcome. His jumper cut the lead to 92-70.
Austin Croshere expects his teammates, including Miller, to shoot much better on Sunday _ even though Indiana is 17-44 in Boston.
``I've never seen Reggie get down on himself. I've never seen Reggie flustered,'' he said. ``When he shoots it, I always think it's going in.''
But if he and the other Pacers keep up their wild shooting, they're likely to go home for Tuesday night's game trailing 3-1.
``We can put a choke hold on them if we win'' Sunday, Pierce said. ``It'll be really difficult to beat us three straight.''