Reggie Miller – 8 Points in 9 Seconds
Apex moment in a genuine rivalry between New York and Indiana
A career defining series of plays for Miller
It was only the conference semi-finals, and despite Indy building a 3-1 lead on the back of this, they blew their advantage and were forced into a game 7.
A year earlier, Reggie Miller had become New York’s ultimate villain when he taunted the Madison Square Garden crowd with throat-grabbing gestures and insults, but New Yorkers had the last word as the Knicks won a tough seven-game series to advance to the NBA finals. In game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semi-finals, it appeared more of the same for the Knicks, who led by 6 points (105-99) with under 20 seconds left. The MSG crowd was ecstatic, letting Miller have it.
The situation seemed somewhat helpless, but doing what coaches do, Indiana head coach Larry Brown called a time-out and told his players to go for a quick score, look for a steal, and if that doesn’t work, then foul. But even Brown didn’t buy into what he was preaching. “Realistically, I thought we had no chance,” he said.
He was wrong. On the inbound pass, Mark Jackson lobbed the ball to Miller, who pivoted and drilled a clutch (but seemingly meaningless) 3 over John Starks, and the lead was suddenly cut in half.
New York’s best passer, Anthony Mason, took the ball beneath the basket and nervously began to look for a teammate to get it in to. He had good reason to be fidgety, because the man he was looking for primarily – guard Greg Anthony – was being doubled off the ball and had tripped over the defenders feet in a desperate attempt to break free. It was at that precise moment that Mason passed the ball in to him, but it went (almost poetically) into the hands of Miller. Mason made the gesture to pull the ball back as soon as he released it, almost like it was on a tether, but it was too late.
“I saw [Mason] was having trouble finding someone to throw it to”, said Miller. “I knew he was going to throw it somewhere. I didn’t expect him to throw it to me.” Miller, once catching the ball, would have the presence of mind to take a step back to the 3-point line, elevated and calmly sank another 3 that would tie the game at 105. From every corner of MSG, you could see the horrified expressions of the disbelieving Knicks fans. Hands were clutching heads, faces were buried into palms, and jaws were dropped in shock.
Miller was not done yet.
On the next possession, John Starks was fouled by Sam Mitchell, but he missed both shots. Mason almost redeemed himself by tipping the offensive rebound to Patrick Ewing, who bricked an open 8 footer, and as Miller seized the rebound, he was fouled. With 7.5 seconds left, Reggie strutted to the foul line and sank both foul shots, giving the Pacers a 107-105 lead which they would hold on to and win by. Miller would use this opportunity to return some of the earlier taunts, shouting “choke artists” to the crowd.
That Sunday afternoon is a permanent part of not just the Indiana Pacers’ lore, but an undeniable chapter of Madison Square Garden’s history too. Reggie Miller was the catalyst the Pacers needed to become legitimate contenders in the East, and his performance in game 1 was critical in their series win over New York and advancing to the next round. On that day, he was the greatest one-man show on earth, and those 8.9 seconds are still talked about 20 years after they happened. We will see amazing game winners and other clutch plays in the NBA, but we may be waiting 100 years before we see a sequence like this, in the playoffs no less, ever again.