Originally created 06/19/00

Relaxed Miller is ready to connect for Indiana



EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With dark wraparound sunglasses and a floppy hat pulled over his eyes, Reggie Miller seemed better suited for a California vacation Sunday than Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Was he trying to hide? Maybe Miller wanted to remain anonymous in his native Southern California after shooting 1-of-16 in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers and 7-of-16 in Game 2.

"I'd like to put on a better show than I did in Games 1 and 2," he admitted.

More likely, Miller was just playing it cool.

He was loose, his confidence bolstered by the return of his shooting touch when the series swung through Indiana. And the Pacers are equally loose coming off their blowout 120-87 victory in Game 5.

"We came out and played relaxed, focused and just had a good time," Miller said. "We have nothing to hang our heads about and everything to gain. That's the approach we're going to use Monday."

Miller's shooting has been crucial to Indiana's success or failure in the Finals. Even though his accuracy returned at cozy Conseco Fieldhouse, he missed a 3-point try at the buzzer that would have won Game 4.

And with the series back in Los Angeles, Miller was forced to answer questions about his poor shooting earlier at the cavernous Staples Center.

"I just missed some shots," he said. "They (Lakers) were making the same shots."

Now, with Indiana trying to become the first team to rally from a 3-1 Finals deficit and still pursuing their first victory this season at Staples, the Pacers are hoping for a superstar effort by Miller.

"He's primed and ready," forward Sam Perkins said. "I don't think he's going to be disappointing, and that's going to help everyone else be involved."

Take Jalen Rose, for example. When Miller starts hitting, Rose usually heats up, too. That opens the middle for center Rik Smits. If defenders concentrate on Miller, the Pacers have Austin Croshere to shoot 3-pointers.

"It's no surprise when we're all putting up numbers and scoring the ball," Rose said. "We just need to do it tomorrow."

Although the lopsided victory in Game 5 left the Pacers feeling good, they've still got issues to face. Paramount is stopping Shaquille O'Neal, who's averaging a whopping 37.4 points and 17.6 rebounds in the Finals.

"The key is stopping Shaq," Rose said. "Anytime you have a guy that's getting 38 points and 20 rebounds, that's where it starts and ends."

There's also the health of Travis Best, who dislocated his left shoulder while tackling O'Neal on an intentional foul in Game 4. On Sunday, Best shot free throws at practice like a one-armed man: no motion at all with his left arm.

"It's sore," Best said. "It's going to be a game-time decision."

Then there's coach Larry Bird's pending departure from the bench. With a loss, he quits coaching and moves into an uncertain future, but he wasn't thinking about anything beyond the immediate task.

"When you're down 3-1, you've got three seventh games," Bird said. "This is our seventh game again. We responded the other night and hopefully we'll come out with the same effort."

Miller knows what's looming over him in his first trip to the Finals, but the Lakers gave him a reminder anyway. In a window above the team's practice court were the franchise's five NBA title trophies.

"They look pretty," Miller said. "Nice and shiny. Someone's going to win one of those in the next three or four days."