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.
During the prime of Reggie Miller’s career, the New York Knicks were undeniably the Pacers’ main and most prominent rival. But during the twilight of Miller’s career, a new nemesis arose – The Detroit Pistons.
The Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons will forever be connected in history when looking back on the 2000s decade just as the Pacers and Knicks will always be remembered together in the 1990s. The connections between these two Central Division foes during this era are manifold. After completely turning around the entire Piston franchise in 2001 and 2002, Detroit fired head coach Rick Carlisle in favor of ex-Indiana coach Larry Brown. The Pacers also hired a new head coach during the summer of 2003. You guessed it, new GM Larry Bird brought on Detroit castoff Rick Carlisle (after firing ex-Piston legend Isaiah Thomas). The Pacers and Pistons would meet in the Eastern Conference Finals that season marking the first chapter of the rivalry. The rivalry would intensify to the literal breaking point the following year in a regular season game that will forever be remembered as “The Brawl.” The Brawl, maybe the ugliest and most disgraceful event in NBA history, is the moment that will tie the two franchise together forever from a historical standpoint. After Ben Wallace’s childish temper, a drink throwing idiot, and Metta World Unpeace basically destroyed the Indiana Pacer franchise as we all knew it, the two squad’s met once again in the Eastern Conference Semifinals later that season. The series would be Reggie Miller’s last as an NBA player. Reggie had huge moments in both of these playoff series (just as he killed the Knicks on multiple occasions in the 90s), so for Miller Moment #9 we give to you a 2 for 1. One great Miller Moment from the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals and one from the 2005 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
May 22, 2004 – Game 1 Eastern Conference Finals: For the Detroit Pistons, this Conference Finals appearance was a return trip, the second in an impressive stretch of six in a row (2 NBA Finals appearances, 1 championship, regular season dominance sprinkled with some playoff disappointment – they were basically the Indianapolis Colts except they played defense). For the Indiana Pacers it would be their first trip back to the conference finals since the magical NBA Finals year in 2000. The Pacers came into the series favored as the 1 seed facing the 3rd seeded Pistons. Game 1 was a tight, low scoring, defensive affair (as all the Pacers-Pistons games were). In the end it of course came down to Reggie. Veteran Jeff Foster tied the game at 74-74 with 1:23 remaining setting up an opportunity for Reggie to strike. A few possessions later with the scored unchanged, the crafty Foster set a screen on Rip Hamilton giving Miller just enough time to launch a triple with from the right wing. You all know how this one ends, Miller’s shot went in with 31 seconds remaining (watch here), and the Pacers went on to win 78-74. Another chapter had been added to Reggie’s already remarkable playoff heroics history. After the game Larry Brown (a man who was no stranger to Miller Time) said, “We’ve all seen it. He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
May 13, 2005 – Game 3 Eastern Conference Semifinals: The semifinals in 2005 were a rematch for the Pacers once again facing the Pistons in the playoffs. This series as mentioned earlier also followed the infamous brawl which ravaged the Pacers’ rosters with suspensions while barely scuffing the Pistons’. After splitting the first two games in Detroit, the series moved back to Conseco Fieldhouse for Game 3. The Pacers built a large lead in the second half at one point leading 61-47 in the third quarter, but the Pistons stormed back eventually regaining the lead 72-71 with 2:09 remaining in the game.
(Reggie enter stage left).
It was Miller Time one last time. Reggie climbed into the telephone booth and sprang forth once more scoring six points during the final 1:21 to take an unexpected 2-1 series lead over the heavily favored Pistons. The final two points which sealed the win came off a 21 foot jumper from Reggie with 10 seconds remaining (watch here). It should be mentioned that Uncle Reg nudged Lindsey Hunter (who fell to the floor) in the process of getting open (classic Reggie). Unfortunately, this would in fact be Reggie’s final clutch postseason shot. Even at the age of 39, Miller still had the big stones when the moment was the biggest. More to come on this series later in the countdown……
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