All December long the Back Home Again staff will be recounting the Top 25 Reggie Miller Moments of all-time as part of our “25 Days of Reggie.” The countdown will serve as a great way to get geared up for the start of the 2011 NBA season (and Christmas) as we remember and honor one of the NBA’s most clutch performers and the Indiana Pacers’ greatest player ever.
Let’s set the scene for you: 2001 NBA Playoffs, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 1. The Philadelphia 76ers had rolled through the regular season, winning 56 games and taking the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs by a healthy margin. Of course, you probably know by now this was the year Allen Iverson was voted MVP of the league. The Answer averaged 31 points per game in the Sixers best season since Charles Barkley was playing in Philadelphia (and you probably don’t remember those days.)
The Pacers limped into the playoffs by going .500 for the season, but they were in it once again…and we know just how dangerous Indy can be as an 8-seed (I’m getting ahead of myself here, but you’ll see later on in our 25 Days of Reggie). Miller once again carried the Pacers in the 2000-2001 season, averaging nearly 19 a game.
This was suppose to be the year Indiana made it big, after coming up short in the NBA Finals last season. But the Pacers made some questionable moves in the offseason, and were back fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference. But #31 wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, April 21st – First Union Center in Philadelphia. Sixer fans pack the place in anticipation of starting the best of 5 series off right…and it looked good from the get go.
Iverson and company jumped out on the Pacers, leading by as much as 18 in the second half; until Reggie and the Pacers came to life. Miller nailed a clutch tray with under 4 minutes to go and Jermaine O’Neal continued his scintillating play that gave Pacer fans reason to believe that maybe, JUST maybe, this team could make a run at the #1 seed.
With the Pacers trailing by 2 points with under 12 seconds to go, Indy in-bounded the ball to Jalen Rose. Austin Croshere gave Reggie just enough space on the down screen to get away from Iverson for the game winner. You know by now how it ended, but watch it HERE how it really went down.
2.7 seconds left, Philadelphia and their proud Sixer fans were stunned on their home court in game 1. Sure, Philly came back to blow out Indy in Game 2 and hold on to take down the Pacers in 3 & 4 at Conseco, but the indelible legacy that #31 continued to leave on the NBA Playoffs was once again clear for everyone to see.
No, this wasn’t one of his most celebrated buzzer beaters…but if Indiana had managed to come back and take down the Sixers at home in Games 3 or 4, we could have been talking about this one as much, MUCH more.