INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Miller did what Reggie Miller does.
After missing his first six shots, Miller drilled a 3-pointer with 31.7 seconds left to break the game's final tie and lead the Indiana Pacers past the Detroit Pistons, 78-74, last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"You knew it was coming," Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal said. "He's going to make one big-time shot, and he thrives on the biggest shot."
Miller's 13-year career has been marked by his clutch shooting, particularly in the playoffs and often from 3-point range.
"When he shot it, I pretty much knew he was going to make it," said Detroit's Richard Hamilton, who was defending Miller on the play. "The guy's been making those shots all his career." With the score tied at 74, O'Neal missed a difficult turnaround jumper from the left baseline. Jeff Foster tipped the rebound to a teammate, and the Pacers had another chance.
Miller popped free off a Foster screen, took a pass from Jamaal Tinsley, and buried his three to make it 77-74.
"All I need is to have a half-second of daylight," Miller said.
Hamilton missed a 3-pointer for Detroit and O'Neal was fouled on the rebound with 19.8 seconds left, but he missed both foul shots to give the Pistons another chance.
Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace both airballed 3-point attempts, and Miller made the second of two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to seal Indiana's 14th consecutive home victory.
O'Neal led Indiana with 21 points and 14 rebounds, Ron Artest scored 17, Al Harrington had 14, and Tinsley 13. Hamilton scored 23, Billups had 18, and Ben Wallace added 11 points and 22 rebounds for the Pistons, who got little (4 points, 5 fouls, 3 turnovers) from Rasheed Wallace, whose only postgame comment was to guarantee a Game 2 victory tomorrow night.
Indiana won despite shooting 33 percent, getting outrebounded, 47-41, and being held to 30 second-half points -- 13 in the third quarter and 17 in the fourth.
"That's pretty much what I was expecting," O'Neal said. "There weren't any surprises out there tonight."
The Pacers were ahead, 48-41, at halftime behind 14 points from Harrington and 13 from O'Neal. Billups and Hamilton accounted for 10 of Detroit's 17 first-half field goals, with Rasheed Wallace going just 1 for 2 and grabbing only one rebound.
Hamilton scored the first 4 points of the fourth quarter as part of an 11-0 run that gave the Pistons a 64-61 lead. Indiana responded with an 11-4 run, including 6 points from O'Neal, to go ahead, 72-68, with 5:19 left, but the Pacers then went nearly four minutes without a point. In the end, though, Miller rendered that drought insignificant.
"That one time you kind of let up a little, he burns you," said Pistons coach Larry Brown. "That's why he is so special and has been so special."