One coach called it "mind-boggling." Another coach called it "unconscious."
Everyone was looking for a way to describe Reggie Miller's game Wednesday night, one of the great shooting displays in NBA playoff history that left the Indiana Pacers within one victory of the NBA Finals.Miller scored 25 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, rallying the Pacers to a 93-86 win over the New York Knicks and a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
"Everything felt like it was in slow motion," said Miller, who personally outscored the Knicks 25-16 in the final period. "You see plays before they happen, read defenses and know what your defender is going to do before he does it."
He made five consecutive 3-pointers and eight of 10 shots in the final period, helping Indiana recover from a 16-point deficit in the first half and 12-point deficit in the fourth period with a whirlwind of shotmaking.
The victory was all the sweeter for Miller because it came in New York, where the Knicks were 8-0 in the playoffs going into the game. Indiana lost its previous 11 games at Madison Square Garden and 31 of 33.
"To me, this is the greatest place to play basketball," Miller said. "What better way to go against the best team, where you've got to play your best."
Miller, who punctuated the victory by slamming the ball to the court at the final buzzer, set a playoff record for any period with his five 3-pointers, one more than the mark of four established twice, most recently Houston's Vernon Maxwell on Tuesday night.
"I've probably had better shooting nights," he said. "But on the road, in the Garden, fifth game of the Eastern Conference finals, puts it right up there."
Miller, one of the league's great trash talkers, kept up a running commentary during the fourth quarter with movie director Spike Lee, who has a courtside seat. As his big shots mounted, Miller stared at Lee, yelled at him and, at one point, put his hands to his throat in a choke sign.
When asked about his exchange with Lee, Miller replied, "Spike who?"
Pacers coach Larry Brown said Miller delivered one the finest performances he has seen in the league.
"To step up in the fourth quarter like he did against a team like the Knicks is just mind-boggling," he said.
The Pacers, who won three ABA titles in the 1970s but never before advanced past the first round of the NBA playoffs before this year, need to win at Indianapolis on Friday night to capture the best-of-7 series.
The Knicks go to Indianapolis as a road-weary team, having lost six of seven away from home during the playoffs this year. A victory by the Knicks there would force a seventh game in New York on Sunday, with the series winner facing the Rockets in the NBA Finals.
"We'll find out what kind of team we have, what we're all about," coach Pat Riley said. "Reggie was just unconscious in the fourth quarter. We just have to deal with it and go on from there."
Patrick Ewing scored 29 points and Charles Smith and John Starks 16 each for the Knicks, making their second straight trip to the conference finals in an effort to win their third NBA titles.
"Basketball is a game of spurts and unfortunately they had theirs in the fourth quarter," said Ewing, referring to the Pacers' 35-16 scoring advantage in the final period. "But they didn't break our spirit. We just couldn't convert at our end."
New York went 3-for-12 from the field, turned the ball over nine times and managed just 16 points while Miller went wild in the final quarter. Miller's 25 points were four short of Sleepy Floyd's NBA playoff record, set in 1987.
Indiana won despite six points, six turnovers and six fouls in 18 minutes by starting center Rik Smits. The Pacers also missed 13 of 18 free throws through three quarters, but they went 8-for-8 in the final period.
Backup center Antonio Davis, however, filled in admirably for Smits, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Knicks managed just 145 points in a holiday weekend visit to Indiana that allowed the Pacers to turn a 2-0 series deficit into a 2-2 tie. But New York's 8-0 playoff record at home, raised doubt about whether Indiana could pull another upset, its third of the postseason.
The Pacers eliminated top-seeded Atlanta and fourth-seeded Orlando in the previous two playoff rounds. The Knicks beat Indiana in all four regular-season meetings and finished with the second-best record in the conference.
Now, however, the doubt rests with New York, which must pull out of its road funk if it hopes to bring the series back to New York.
The Knicks led 32-16 in the first half, but saw the margin cut to 43-35 at halftime as they managed just 11 points in the last 11 minutes of the second quarter.
Smith, who scored two points in Game 4 and averaged 4.5 in the first four games, had eight in the first 3:37 of the second half, helping the Knicks open a 57-43 advantage.
Indiana got within nine twice in the third period. But New York responded both times with a 3-pointer, first by Derek Harper and then by Starks, and the Knicks took a 70-58 lead into the final 12 minutes.
New York, which shot 36 percent from the field and didn't score more than 22 points in any of the eight quarters in Indianapolis, reached that total in 7 1/2 minutes Wednesday night.