Reggie Miller returned, and everything went right for the Indiana Pacers - until the final shot.
Miller, sidelined since April 13 with a fractured eye socket, made a surprising comeback Sunday and had another spectacular fourth quarter. But he missed the game-winning shot at the final buzzer and the Pacers lost 89-87 to the Atlanta Hawks.Atlanta won the best-of-5 series 3-2 and advanced to play Orlando in the second round.
Miller scored 16 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, including Indiana's final eight. He got the ball in the final seconds but was double-teamed by Mookie Blaylock and Matt Bullard. Miller still managed to get off an off-balance 3-pointer, but it glanced off the side of the rim as time expired.
That gave the victory to Atlanta, which had lost to the Pacers in the playoffs the past two years. Indiana was ousted in the first round for the first time in three years in what may have been Miller's final game with the Pacers. He becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Pacers cut Atlanta's lead to 89-87 with 31 seconds left after Miller was hacked by Stacey Augmon as he went up for a 3-pointer. He made all three free throws.
Blaylock then threw the ball out of bounds on the next Atlanta possession, giving the ball back to the Pacers with 11 seconds left to set up the final sequence.
Blaylock scored 23 points, Steve Smith had 17 and Christian Laettner added 15 points and 11 rebounds despite being in foul trouble for much of the game.
Rik Smits finished with 17 points for the Pacers, who were eliminated in the first round for the first time in three years.
The Hawks trailed only once from the end of the second quarter on, but they nearly gave the game away in the fourth quarter. After Bullard's trey gave Atlanta a 72-63 lead - its largest of the game - with 11:11 left, the Hawks were scoreless for the next three minutes. A pair of baskets from Smits and three free throws by Miller cut Atlanta's lead to 72-70 before Blaylock drilled a 3-pointer with 8:30 left.
Both teams were aggressive all afternoon, but things turned ugly when Alan Henderson hacked Miller as he went for a layup, sending his orange-tinted protective glasses on top of his head. Miller shoved Henderson and was called for a technical.
Smith made the technical free throw and Miller made the first of his two foul shots.
The Pacers took an 84-83 lead - their first of the game since the second quarter - on Miller's 3-pointer with 2:14 to go, but Smith's layup 20 seconds later put Atlanta ahead for good.
Mark Jackson turned the ball over on Indiana's next two possessions, and Laettner scored on a putback and Blaylock scored on a drive to put the Hawks ahead 89-84 with 43 seconds left.
Indiana shot just 40 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 30 Atlanta points.
The Hawks didn't shoot much better, 42 percent from the floor, but Indiana only got 14 points off Atlanta's 17 turnovers.
Bulls 91, Knicks 84
At Chicago, a sore back couldn't keep Michael Jordan from carrying the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan, bothered by back spasms all week, scored 44 points Sunday as the Bulls opened the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 91-84 victory over the New York Knicks.
The Bulls, who eliminated the Knicks from the playoffs in 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993 but lost to New York during Jordan's retirement in 1994, have followed their NBA-record 72-victory regular season with a 4-0 start in the playoffs. They'll try to go ahead 2-0 in the best-of-7 series Tuesday night.
Scottie Pippen, with 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting, was the only other Chicago player to score in double figures.
So it was Jordan's game to win or lose. And, as he almost always does against New York, he won.
The Bulls missed eight straight shots, allowing the Knicks to pull to 83-82 with four minutes left, before Jordan made a 15-foot jumper, an end-to-end drive over 7-foot Patrick Ewing and a fade-away from the lane as the Bulls finished the game with an 8-2 run.
New York did not make a field goal in the final 5:15 and had two of its 17 turnovers in the final minute of the game.
Ewing, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds but was only 9-of-23 from the floor, missed two free throws with 2:15 left that would have cut Chicago's lead to 88-86.
Jordan responded with his turnaround jumper in the lane for a six-point lead and John Starks shot an airball from 3-point range on New York's next possession.
Starks, who shot 64 percent from 3-point range and led the Knicks with a 20-point average in their first-round sweep of Cleveland, was 0-for-9 overall and 0-for-5 on 3-pointers.