"There was so much surrounding this game, trying to stay
focused," Miller said after an 85-83 victory over the Chicago
Bulls. "You look around the arena, you have your family in, it's
tough. I was emotional the whole time."
Miller is retiring with 25,279 points, 12th in NBA career
scoring, and the victory guaranteed the Pacers the sixth playoff
spot in the Eastern Conference and a first-round series against
O'Neal had 21 points and Johnson added 20, scoring the go-ahead
basket and a clinching 3-pointer in the final minute. Had the
Pacers lost, they would have opened at Detroit, the site of their
infamous brawl with fans early in the season.
After leading the league with 61 victories last year, the Pacers
were hurt by injuries and by suspensions following the brawl and
"We've got a chance. Obviously, we won't be at full strength,
but who cares?" Miller said of Indiana's playoff hopes. "We have
to find ways to win ball games."
Ron Artest, who was suspended the rest of the season after the
brawl, watched the game Wednesday night from the Indiana bench.
Afterward, during a postgame ceremony on the darkened court,
Miller spoke to the Indiana fans.
"We have laughed, we have cried, we have celebrated all
together, I was a young and, I will admit, very immature young man
coming in at 21," he said. "But the people of Indianapolis have
really matured me into a more settled 39-year-old as I go.
"I want to thank you guys for opening your hearts to me each
and every night that we played."
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Indiana.
"It's great to go in on a win. I can't honestly say we're
playing well right now, but we're going to piece it together,"
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "There were a lot of reasons to
win tonight. The biggest reason was for Reggie, for what he's done
for this franchise."
Miller had 12 points and shot just 3-of-13, each miss drawing
groans from the 18,345 fans who turned out for a farewell that
included taped messages from former President Clinton and a host of
celebrities and former and current NBA stars.
"This is a great night, without question," Carlisle said.
"This had to be an unbelievable thing for him to get through. A
lot of this stuff, I don't think he knew was going on, a message
from Clinton. To absorb all that and try to play a basketball game,
it's just ... Wow, I couldn't imagine doing it."
Chicago led by 14 points early in the game, but the Bulls missed
their first eight shots in both the third and fourth quarters, and
the Pacers slowly fought their way back.
Miller scored a basket and then two free throws at the start of
the final period, tying the game at 64. Johnson then stole the
ball, and O'Neal hit two baskets and a free throw to put Indiana up
69-64. The Pacers stretched the lead to 76-67 before the Bulls made
their final comeback.
"There are certain players in the league, it's pretty special
any time you get to go against them," said Chicago coach Scott
Skiles, a former Pacers player and teammate of Miller's. "I've
played pickup basketball with Reggie many times. I'm sure it's
special for everyone in the building to have been here.
"I tend to look at it like he had such a great career and he's
made a life decision. We should be happy for him. He probably has
about 20,000 more points than me."
Two baskets by Jannero Pargo, who finished with a season-high 17
points, helped put Chicago up 79-78 with under 2 minutes to go.
Johnson then gave Indiana the lead again and hit his big 3-pointer
for an 83-79 lead. Stephen Jackson, who finished with 17 points,
gave Indiana its final points with two free throws with 4 seconds
to go before the final basket by Chicago's Jared Reiner.
Chicago placed F-C Tyson Chandler on the injured list and
activated G Frank Williams before the game. Williams did not play.
... Miller was 0-for-2 on 3-pointers, ending his NBA record streak
at 15 straight years with at least 100 3-pointers. He had 96. ...
Indiana used its 30th different starting lineup of the season. ...
The Pacers and Bulls split their season series 2-2. ... Chicago is
0-14 in Conseco Fieldhouse. The Bulls' last victory in Indianapolis
was in 1998 at Market Square Arena. ... The Pacers have held 11 of
their past 15 opponents to 90 points or less. ... Miller, who hit
all six of his free throws, was 250-of-268 (93.3 percent) for the
season, becoming just the third NBA player to lead the league in FT
percentage five times. ... Skiles came to Indiana in a trade with
Milwaukee in 1987 and played two years with Miller; F-C Antonio
Davis was drafted by the Pacers in 1990 and played six years with