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Reggie Miller is most renowned for his exploits throughout the playoffs. And for his battles on the sidelines at Madison Square Garden with Spike Lee. Or, in rare occasions, both at the same time. Miller, on the other hand, had several memorable playoff fights with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, including one in which he led the Indiana Pacers to a victory on one foot, dazzling his head coach, Boston Celtics great Larry Bird.
Bird was well aware of brilliance when he saw it, and he recognized it in Uncle Reg. After the future Hall of Famer erupted in the fourth quarter on a bad ankle to lead the Pacers to a victory in Game 3 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Larry Legend went out of his way to laud Miller.
Against the Bulls, Bird and the Pacers needed Miller’s heroics.
Indiana Pacers’ Reggie Miller takes on Michael Jordan. | G Fiume/Getty Images
Miller did what Miller does best and drilled three-pointers to defeat the Knicks in the conference playoffs. He tied the game with a game-tying 3-pointer in Game 4 against New York, then scored seven more points in overtime to give Indiana a 3-1 series lead. The Pacers defeated the Knicks and advanced to meet Jordan and the Bulls.
In the conference finals, Chicago jumped off to a 2-0 lead. If his side was going to have a chance to win the series, Miller had to step up.
With fewer than five minutes left in Game 3, the Pacers had a two-point lead. A defeat would leave them down 3-0 in the series against Chicago, essentially ending the team’s postseason run.
Miller came up big in the last 4:30 of Indiana’s victory, scoring 13 points.
Miller had just 15 points going into the closing minutes of the game, and he was playing on one foot after hurting his ankle in the third quarter.
In any case, the five-time all-star pressed the clutch button and sprang to life.
Miller made two 3-pointers in under 60 seconds and then added a 20-footer at the end of the shot clock on another possession to put Indiana up 97-89.
With 1:34 remaining, he nailed another three, but the Bulls were not going down without a fight. Chicago battled back to go within one point at 103-102, but Indiana hung on and remained alive in the game thanks to the lanky shooting guard’s two-for-two shooting from the line in the closing seconds.
Bird, according to NBA.com, was ecstatic with what his star player accomplished on one foot:
“He said he was free to go. He risked everything and stood up to hit the big shots.
“But Reggie is Reggie.”
Larry Bird discusses Reggie Miller’s Game 3 performance in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1998.
Miller had the “clutch gene,” as he demonstrated against the Bulls.
With another tough effort from their franchise cornerstone, the Pacers won Game 4. Miller shook Jordan around a series of screens and hit another clutch three to give the Pacers a one-point victory with his ankle in even worse condition — “I shouldn’t have been out there,” he said — and hit another clutch three to give the Pacers a one-point win.
Indiana ultimately lost the series, and Jordan went on to win his sixth and last title by hitting a jumper over Bryon Russell. Miller and the Pacers reached the finals in 2000, but were defeated by the Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
It wasn’t the first time Miller Time appeared in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, and it wouldn’t be the last. But doing it while beating Jordan on one ankle and earning the accolades of one of the all-time greats in Bird made it one to remember.
NBA.com provided all data.
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