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.
Game 4, 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Bulls versus Pacers, Jordan versus Miller, Chi-Town versus Nap-town. It was do or die for the Indiana Pacers, as Market Square
Arena was on the edge of their seat throughout the 4th game in the best of 7 series. Chicago had taken the first 2 at the United Center before Indy was able to hold on in Game 3; setting up a must-win Game 4 versus the Bulls.
A back and forth slug fest ensued as Chicago would land a right hook before Indiana would counter with the upper-cut. Although in the 3rd, it appeared the Bulls would run away from the home team Pacers. Leading by double digits at multiple points in the 3rd session, Jordan and Chicago had an 8-point lead going into the final stanza.
And with 8 minutes to go, the lead remained at 8…until a quick 6-0 run capped off by a pull-up 3 by Travis Best cut the Chicago lead to 2. With 4 minutes to go, Derrick McKey drained a wide-open 3 to give the Pacers their first lead since the opening 12 minutes of the game.
With under a minute to go, Indy trailed 94-91. With the Pacers controlling the ball, Travis Best looked to find #31 to tie it up from the perimeter. Instead, Jordan denied Regg the basketball and Best took matters into his own hands with a beautiful shot with under 34 seconds remaining over Dennis Rodman.
Timeout Chicago. 33.5 seconds remaining, Bulls lead 94-93. On Chicago’s ensuing possession, Rodman was called for an offensive foul. Pacer ball, 21.8 seconds left. The moment was there to tie the series. Indy ball, Best brings it past the timeline.
For a second, Miller had an open look, but deferred to the point guard Best. Like he did 4 minutes earlier, Travis found a seemingly wide-open McKey in the corner for the go-ahead 3…BLOCKED by who else, Michael Jordan. 6.4 seconds left, Pacer ball out of bounds.
All 16,530 fans in attendance were on their feet, looking to witness history. That ‘historic play’ they hoped to observe nearly had Pacer fans bolting for the exits. McKey looked to inbound to Miller, but there was MJ once again to knock the ball loose. Scottie Pippen recovers, 4.7 seconds left. Bulls lead by 1. Game over right?
Pippen, a 78% free throw shooter on the season wasn’t about to miss any of his charity stripe shots to give the Bulls a safer 3-point advantage. This is where we see a little gamesmanship come into play, and it wasn’t even from ol’ #31.
Before Pippen stepped to the free throw line, the Pacer who turned it over on the previous play, Derrick McKey, was seen whispering something to Scottie before making his approach to the charity stripe. What he said, no one has ever been able to figure out, but we’ll go ahead and say it was something along these lines.
So there he was, Scottie Pippen, future hall of famer, 13 feet away from the basket…and he just got some friendly words from his opponent. Must have worked, cause Pippen shot the ball 12 3/4 feet as the ball bounced off the front of the rim on the first shot. A glimmer of hope to win it.
But Pippen wouldn’t be out-done, he then missed the 2nd freebie as the ball caromed off of players before going out of bounds. Who touched it last? Who got possession? Maybe the biggest call of the series went to…(after the officials’ discussion)…Indiana. Timeout Pacers, their last of the game. 2.9 seconds left, and that’s all Indiana would need.
…”We wanted to get Jordan out of the play and he switched,” said Miller. “Pippen wasn’t
playing me aggressively and Derrick made the pass. All I had to do was get my feet square”……BOTTOM. Pacers lead 96-94, under a second to go.
For those in attendance, they say that was the loudest Market Square Arena had ever been. Reggie had done it again only this time, it was the biggest shot of his life. The Pacers went on to win Game 4, and eventually force a Game 7 before Chicago would hold on at the UC to advance to the 1998 NBA Finals.
But to this day, Pacer fans could care less whether or not the Bulls won it over Utah in the Finals. All WE care about is that one incredible shot, and that beautiful, almost picture
perfect Reggie celebration at the other end. No other play was ever more re-created on driveways in Indiana than that game winner, and no other celebratory moment was ever mimicked by kids across the Hoosier state more than Reggie’s 1998 game-winner over MJ.
No kids were seen mimicking Larry Bird’s reaction, but it was equally incredible 🙂
*FOOTNOTE*: Bulls fans to this day complain about the push-off that Miller gave Jordan to get open for the shot…yet Chicago would never have won the 1998 NBA Finals if it wasn’t for Jordan pushing Byron Russell out of the way. Poetic justice that MJ served that one up in his final shot as a Chicago Bull…possibly??