After being squashed like bugs in Game 1, Reggie Miller said, it would be imperative to avoid "windshield-wiper games" if the Indiana Pacers had any shot in this series against the Celtics.
You know, those games where the pace of the action is back and forth.
In Game 2 last night, Indiana controlled the tempo and rebounded from Saturday night's humiliating effort with an 82-79 victory at the FleetCenter. The Pacers not only evened the series, 1-1, but they wrested the home-court advantage away as the series shifts to Indiana Thursday.
"Each game is going to take a life of its own," said Miller, who led the Pacers with 28 points on 9-for-18 shooting to make up for his 7-point effort (1-for-7 shooting) in Game 1. "I'm very encouraged with the way we played tonight, for the most part. We had our lulls, but the tempo was set just right for us. We didn't get into a windshield-wiper game like we did in Game 1. And we executed down the stretch, which was really big for us."
The Pacers, who twice led by 11 points in the first quarter, erased a 75-68 fourth-quarter deficit. They tied it, 78-78, on Stephen Jackson's baseline dunk and then surged to an 82-79 lead on Anthony Johnson's hoop in the lane with 1:09 to go and Miller's running jumper with 37.1 seconds left. The latter was a backbreaker, silencing the sellout crowd of 18,624 who taunted the retiring 39-year-old guard with chants of "Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!"
A tactical mistake, to be sure.
"I know the Boston fans are very smart, but I don't know if they know their history real well," said Scot Pollard. "If you look at the history of Reggie Miller's career and you think about New York and all the crap they gave him and the big shots he hit there, if I'm a fan, I'm not trying to give Reggie Miller any kind of incentive to play ball."
Not that Miller needed any prodding from Celtics fans. This is his last hurrah. And he used all his guile and savvy to resurrect the Pacers. He was oblivious to the taunts. And he did not get caught up in the brash move by Celtic rookie Tony Allen, who was hit with a technical after he beat Miller to the basket for a thunderous dunk, retrieved the ball, and stuffed it in Miller's midriff.
"He's a hard-nosed player," Miller said of Allen. "I really respect the way he plays out on the court. I'm just trying to play hard and finish my tenure here. Sometimes you just let sleeping dogs lie. I haven't talked trash in six or seven years in a playoff series.
"Truthfully, I've heard a lot worse in Philly and New York. So this was child's play, what I was hearing tonight."
Jackson, who scored 16 of his 20 points in the first quarter to help the Pacers to a 30-22 lead, echoed Pollard's sentiments.
"I was just happy when they started screaming his name and the young guys wanted to start taunting him," said Jackson. "I know when I played against him, the first thing I did is I never said anything to Reggie. Once you upset him, he's going to wake up and going to hit like five straight threes."
The Pacers also needed Jermaine O'Neal, who has a banged-up right shoulder, to have the night he had: 13 points and 6 rebounds in 37 rugged minutes. "Obviously, I'm not going to be at an All-Star level, pretty much in any part of this series," said O'Neal, who was forced to sit in the second quarter after getting hit on the shoulder by Al Jefferson's blocked shot. "My role has changed. I'm starting to get comfortable with making plays around the basket when given the opportunity to score, but I think right now I'm more of a defensive guy who controls the boards and contests every layup.
"If I can get going offensively at some point and contribute, that's great. But I'm going to rely on my teammates to carry the offensive load."
Which underscored why it was important for the Pacers to control the tempo.
"This team has proven this season if they score 100 points, they're pretty much unbeatable," O'Neal said of the Celtics. "These guys can really hurt you in a bad way and have a whole lot of talent who can really come in and score from every position. We didn't want to get into a run-and-gun style, because that proved to be deadly for us in Game 1." Sometimes you're the windshield. Sometimes you're the bug.