NEW YORK — There isn't much left to get excited about in these NBA playoffs except this: Reggie Miller is coming to Madison Square Garden.
Two dates, Saturday and Monday, on basketball's greatest stage. Two more opportunities to add to his growing list of grand performances on Broadway.
"Hopefully I'll have a couple more left in me," Miller said.
Miller doesn't hold any of the Madison Square Garden records listed in the New York Knicks' media guide. But ask Knick fans which opponent they fear the most in that building, and the answer will be Miller.
The current Garden opened in 1968, and Miller has had two games that easily put him on the short list of the arena's most memorable moments.
He poured in 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals, a night as famous for his scoring outburst as it was for the series of glares, words and gestures directed at director Spike Lee after each basket.
The next year, Miller stole Game 1 of the Indiana Pacers' second-round series against the Knicks. With New York ahead by six points in the final 17 seconds, Miller scored eight points in less than nine seconds to swipe the victory.
He made a three-point basket, stole a bad inbounds pass from Anthony Mason and stepped back to drill another three-pointer. Then, after two missed free throws by John Starks and a missed jumper by Patrick Ewing, Miller grabbed a rebound and was fouled, sending him to the line for two automatic free throws.
So by the time the Pacers and Knicks reached Game 4 of their series in 1998, Knick fans knew exactly what to expect.
With the Pacers down by three and less than 10 seconds remaining, Chris Mullin grabbed a loose ball and passed to Mark Jackson, who pitched the ball out to Miller on the left sideline--just a few feet away from Lee.
The best thing was the crowd's reaction. A collective groan went out as soon as he got the ball. People grabbed their heads. On one replay angle you can see a woman behind the baseline say something very similar to "Oh, shoot."
Of course the ball went in. Put Miller in that situation in that building and that's going to be the result. (For good measure, Miller scored seven more points in overtime for the victory.)
Miller won't go down among the all-time greats. His game doesn't have enough dimensions to it, he has yet to take his team to the NBA finals.
But the one thing he has in common with the best who ever played the game is his willingness to play in hostile situations.
When you think of the defining moments for such players as Michael Jordan (from the 63-point game to his final shot) and Magic Johnson (from that all-around exceptional Game 6 his rookie season to the junior, junior sky hook), they were wearing a road jersey.
Miller is the same way. The fans want his head when he steps onto the court at Madison Square Garden. He probably needs a disguise just to get into town.
"You have a lot of people rooting against him," Pacer forward Dale Davis said. "When you do that, he gets a high off of that. He really gets up for that. The more you do it, the more dangerous he is.
"He loves it. He loves putting that dagger in a crowd like that. A good crowd like that, that's going at him, he loves to take that out of them. That's something that he thrives on."
Knick center Patrick Ewing got into it with the fans at Indiana's Market Square Arena on Tuesday night. He waved his arms, encouraging them to increase the volume when they booed him. He went to the bench, pointed to the court and said, "This is my house."
Not quite, Patrick. Besides, if Market Square Arena is Ewing's house, that must mean Miller owns the property, the deed and the title to Madison Square Garden, plus the air space above it. If they ever decide to sell the naming rights to the Garden, Miller ought to get a cut.
Miller realizes that in basketball, as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location.
By making his mark in New York, Miller ensured his place in pop culture. He has landed movie roles and commercials based on his Garden moments.
Has any small-market player gained so much fame without winning a championship?
Miller is happy right were he is. He's as big a star as they have in Indianapolis. (Outside of Peyton Manning, how many other people who live in Indianapolis can you name?)
Miller's jersey is on the backs of kids all over town, and a giant picture of him peers down at passers-by from the side of Market Square Arena.
But you never get a national reputation for doing anything in Indianapolis except winning the Indy 500.
So Miller is back at the scene of the crime. Miller isn't content to break into the Knicks' house and steal the fine china. He wants the silverware too. And the embroidered napkins.
Having split the first two games, the Knicks haven't lost this series yet. They will be at an emotional peak, trying to overcome the loss of Ewing for the rest of the postseason because of a partially torn Achilles' tendon. The crowd will be frenzied too.
It sounds like the stage is set for another Miller moment.
J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.