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Miller's Big Effort Keeps Pacers Afloat

May 05, 2000|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Larry Bird's coaching career isn't over yet. Reggie Miller made sure of it with the highest-scoring playoff game of his career.

Miller scored 41 points Thursday night, including 18 in the fourth quarter, and Travis Best made the biggest shot, a three-point basket with 16 seconds to play, as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 96-95, in Game 5 of their first-round series.

The victory extended the coaching career of Bird, who insists he will leave the profession at the end of the season.

"I never thought about it," Bird said. "The game was too good. It was a great playoff game. I was just trying to win."

The Pacers avoided becoming only the third No. 1-seeded team to lose in the best-of-five first round and moved on to a second-round Eastern Conference series against Philadelphia starting Saturday.

It wouldn't have happened without Miller, who was unstoppable for a long stretch of the fourth quarter, or without Best, who shook off a two-for-14 start to make the go-ahead basket.

"I'm doing this for myself," Miller said. "This could have been my last game."

Milwaukee had a chance to win after Jalen Rose missed two foul shots with 1.4 seconds to play, but Ray Allen could only manage an off-balance three-point shot from about 28 feet that hit the top of the backboard at the buzzer.

Bird spent much of the game on his feet in front of the bench, never wandering far as he called offensive plays and encouraged his team.

Miller got into a shooting groove and scored 14 points in less than five minutes midway through the fourth quarter, a burst that ended with a corner jump shot from a tough angle for an 89-87 lead with five minutes to play.

The Bucks scored the next five points as Miller stopped shooting and decided to pass to open teammates. Best took several of those shots and missed them all, but the Pacers can only be thankful he never lost the nerve to keep hoisting them up.

With Milwaukee leading, 92-90, Miller got the ball isolated outside the three-point arc and stared defender Tim Thomas directly in the eyes before quickly releasing a shot that swished for a 93-92 lead.

"He made it happen. He played a phenomenal game," Bird said.

A 20-footer by Thomas with 50 seconds to play gave the Bucks a 94-93 lead.

Best and Davis missed shots before the ball went out of bounds off Milwaukee, giving the Pacers a full 24-second clock with 29 seconds left on the game clock. Best put up a quick shot and missed, but the Pacers grabbed another offensive rebound and found Best alone in the corner for a three-point basket that made the score 96-94 with 16 seconds remaining.

Allen then missed on a drive and Ervin Johnson was fouled grabbing the offensive rebound, but he missed the first foul shot with 6.2 seconds remaining before making the second. The Pacers inbounded quickly and ran almost five seconds off the clock before the Bucks could foul, which turned out to be huge when Allen had to rush the final shot.

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