Originally created 05/26/98

Miller hits winner in clutch



INDIANAPOLIS -- Once again, Reggie Miller did what Reggie Miller does.

Miller had yet another moment of playoff greatness Monday, making a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining to give the Indiana Pacers a 96-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls, tying the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Michael Jordan had a chance to one-up Miller, but his 26-footer at the buzzer hit the backboard, rolled around the rim and spun out, sending Market Square Arena into pandemonium.

It was a wild finish to what was probably the best game of the series, and the Bulls stormed out of the arena feeling they had been ripped off by several controversial calls and non-calls late in the game.

"There were so many debatable calls late in the game, but Reggie still had to make that shot," said Chicago coach Phil Jackson, who compared the officiating to the 1972 Olympic gold medal game when the United States lost to the Soviet Union.

"They had many, many opportunities they didn't deserve in that ballgame. I don't know if I'll be able to watch the last 10 minutes of that game without calling Rod Thorn," he said, referring to the NBA vice-president.

But more than anything the officials did, the Pacers won the game because they had three chances to do so.

With Chicago leading 94-93, Jordan blocked a jumper by Derrick McKey with 6.4 seconds left. Scottie Pippen then stole the ensuing inbounds pass after it was deflected by teammate Ron Harper.

A scuffle broke out in front of the Chicago bench after Harper yanked Miller out of bounds by the arm, and it appeared that Miller threw a punch in retaliation.

But no technical fouls were called after order was restored.

"They backed off, acted like they were afraid," Jackson said. "It's a technical foul, if not a punching foul, but they didn't have the courage to make that call."

Pippen went to the line with a chance to give the Bulls a three-point lead, but missed both free throws.

Indiana called its final timeout in order to

inbound at halfcourt, and Miller circled around the top of the key, shoved Jordan away, then received the pass and turned to shoot in one motion. He let fly from a step behind the 3-point arc, and the shot hit nothing but net.

"The play was designed for him," Pacers coach Larry Bird said, "but I didn't think he was going to be as wide open as he was."

In a display of emotion similar to what followed his Game 3 heroics (three 3-pointers and 13 late points), Miller, still bothered by a sprained right ankle, jumped up and down and twirled in circles as he headed back to the Indiana bench.

"This is the game they wanted, to go back home," Miller said of the Bulls. "We never wanted to quit.

"I saw that Michael was trailing a bit," he said of the winning play. "I stayed focused on the rim and my rhythm, and the rest is history."

The Bulls still had another shot, though, and Jordan managed to get open about two steps behind the arc for the final shot of the game.

"I knew it was long, but I had an angle on the backboard," said Jordan, who had 28 points, but only four in the fourth quarter.

Jordan said. "It was out of my hands once it left my hands."

The best-of-7 series resumes Wednesday night at the United Center, and the Bulls will be in an unfamiliar position. This will be the first time since 1993 that they have been tied 2-2 in the conference finals.

"Utah, Indiana, it doesn't matter," Jordan said. "They still have got to come through Chicago."

Game 6 is Friday night back in Indianapolis, and Game 7, if necessary, would be next Sunday in Chicago.

"We still have to win a game in Chicago," said Bird, who showed no reaction when Miller hit the 3. "We still have to win two more. My guys realize that. It sure is going to give them confidence going to Chicago."

Rik Smits led the Pacers with 26 points. Miller, who was listed as day-to-day after injuring his ankle Saturday, shot 5-for-11 for 15 points.

"I really just wanted to play half a game," Miller said. "Coach just left me out there. Why, I don't know."

For reasons like the last play.

"He's hit them all year," Bird said of Miller. "If you give him an open look, he's going to hit them.

The Pacers made 11 3-pointers, and their bench -- led by Travis Best with 10 points -- outscored Chicago's 32-13.

Jordan led the Bulls with 28 points, although he scored only four in the fourth quarter. Pippen added 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Dennis Rodman had 16 rebounds.

Jordan wore a bandage on his right eyelid after being cut by Smits' finger in the first quarter.

After trailing for almost the entire game, the Pacers finally took the lead, 88-87, on a 3-pointer by Derrick McKey with 4:09 left.

Jordan, tightly guarded by McKey, missed a jumper on Chicago's next possession, but Antonio Davis then missed two foul shots for Indiana. A corner jumper by Toni Kukoc made it 89-88, a 3-pointer by Best made it 91-89 and Kukoc's 3-pointer made it 92-91 with 1:42 left.

After a miss by Best, Jordan got the ball on an isolation play on the left side. Again guarded by McKey, he crossover-dribbled four times before pulling up for an 18-footer with one second left on the shot clock, making it 94-91 with 52 seconds left.

Best scored on a drive with 33 seconds left, and the Pacers got the ball back with a shot for the win when Rodman was called for an offensive foul for lowering his shoulder and using his elbow while setting a pick to free Jordan.

"The offensive foul by Dennis was an awful call," Jackson said. "... But we have to be champs and prevail."

Jordan's absence while having his cut attended to didn't hurt the Bulls, who outscored Indiana 27-24 in the first quarter despite giving up 10 offensive rebounds.

Jordan, who missed five of his first six shots, made his next five attempts en route to 15 points at halftime as Chicago led 54-48.

Jordan added another nine points in the third quarter as the Bulls were able to stay ahead by at least four points throughout the period. The Pacers trailed 77-69 entering the fourth.

Notes: Chicago's loss meant the NBA Finals will not start until a week from Wednesday. ... Kukoc was a last-minute replacement for Rodman in the starting lineup. He had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. ... Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever was at the game. ... Rodman somersaulted over NBC-TV's courtside broadcasting table while trying to intercept a pass late in the first quarter. ... Chris Mullin of the Pacers missed his final eight shots.