By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001
PHILADELPHIA -- Reggie Miller wasn't thinking about a tie. He was going for a win.
In his latest post-season highlight, Miller nailed a three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to lift the Indiana Pacers to a 79-78 comeback victory over the 76ers in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series Saturday.
Miller, who missed 16 of his first 20 shots, came around a screen and took a pass from Jalen Rose before launching a three-pointer from 25 feet that rattled in.
"On the road I always go for three," said Miller, whose career highlights include several clutch three-pointers at the end of games, especially in the playoffs.
"I knew it was coming. You knew it was coming. The crowd knew it was coming."
The Sixers had a final chance, but Allen Iverson lost his dribble with Miller closely guarding him and couldn't get a shot off as time expired.
"We got to a point where we felt we had these guys beat," Iverson said. "We got tight. To get a big lead like that and lose it at home is ridiculous."
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Tuesday at Philadelphia.
Miller had 17 points and Jermaine O'Neal 12 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for Indiana, which rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit.
"We let the world know -- we let them know -- we can beat them on their own court," O'Neal said.
Iverson, who won his second scoring title in three years by averaging 31.1 points, had 16 points. Aaron McKie had 18, and Dikembe Mutombo had 12 points and 22 rebounds.
SPURS 87, TIMBERWOLVES 82: Tim Duncan's 15-foot bank shot over Dean Garrett with 12.7 seconds left all but sealed the win for host San Antonio, which overcame a poor third quarter and shut down Kevin Garnett in the fourth of the West opener.
Garnett did not attempt a shot over the final six minutes, although he was credited with a field goal when Duncan inadvertently tipped the ball in the wrong basket with 7.4 seconds left. The Wolves quickly fouled Antonio Daniels, who iced the victory by making two free throws.
Garnett led the Timberwolves with 25 points. But Garrett took the Wolves' biggest shots -- a jumper that missed with 1:16 left and one that missed with 38 seconds left.
After trailing 51-37 at halftime, the Timberwolves started the third quarter with a 14-4 rally capped by Terrell Brandon's fastbreak layup and Anthony Peeler's 10-foot jumper to make it 55-53.
They took the lead for the first time since the opening quarter when Wally Szczerbiak scored six straight points (two 7-foot jumpers and two free throws) to close the third quarter ahead 65-63.
JAZZ 88, MAVERICKS 86: Karl Malone, John Stockton and Danny Manning proved experience means a lot in the playoffs.
Malone scored 26 points and Stockton had 12 points, 18 assists and two go-ahead free throws with 25.8 seconds left as host Utah scored the final six points in the West series opener.
"It's just basketball. Forget about age," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Young, old, whatever. It's about who plays focused."
Manning scored 12 points for the Jazz, hitting a huge three-pointer with 58 seconds remaining and his team trailing 86-82.
Dallas coach Don Nelson was ejected midway through the fourth quarter as referees called seven technical fouls and one flagrant foul. But a call that wasn't had the Mavericks steamed at the end.
After Stockton hit the two free throws to put the Jazz ahead 87-86, Dirk Nowitzki drove the lane at the other end. Malone stripped the ball from him, and Donyell Marshall came away with it before being fouled with 3.3 seconds left.
Mavericks assistant Donn Nelson, who took over after his father was ejected with 7:20 to play, jumped and ran in front of the Dallas bench, stunned that no foul was called.
"Dirk taking it strong to the hole was something we've encouraged him to do all year," the younger Nelson said. "In the playoffs, a lot of times you don't get calls like that."
CELTICS: Jim O'Brien, who coached Boston to a 24-24 record after Rick Pitino resigned, is close to signing a three-year contract.
O'Brien and owner Paul Gaston reached an agreement by phone last week, chief operating officer Rich Pond said. The sides expected to meet again Monday, he said.
"My full expectation is that Jim O'Brien will be our next head coach," Pond said.
O'Brien was out of town on family business and could not be reached for comment.