As everybody knows, the 1990s were dominated by the Chicago Bulls. The 2000s promised to be a different story, as those great Bulls teams were quickly broken up after their final championship in 1998. Who would the aughts belong to? Two great teams began the decade looking to stake their claim to a new era of basketball.
The Indiana Pacers finished the 1999-2000 season at 56-26, the best record in the Eastern Conference. By that point, they were a seasoned Playoff team, however, their journeys towards the Finals always fell short. Finally, they were able to break through to the Finals, defeating their old Playoff rivals, the New York Knicks, in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Out West, a familiar team had rose back to the prominence that they were once known for. The Los Angeles Lakers were looking to regain their past glory. With a 67-15 record, they were by far the best team in the league during the regular season. Their trip to the Finals wasn’t easy, but they survived a seven game Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, earning a chance to win their first title since the days when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar roamed the courts.
After jumping out to a 2-0 Finals lead, it looked as though the Lakers would soon recapture the old glory that was missing during the 1990s. However, once the series shifted to Indiana, the Pacers took Game 3. Now the Pacers had a real chance to make this a series, while the Lakers were looking to put themselves one win a way from adding another championship to the annals of their history. Now that the scene’s been set, let’s take a look at our starting lineups. For the visiting Los Angeles Lakers…
F – Glen Rice (15.9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists)
F – AC Green (5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1 assist)
C – Shaquille O’Neal (29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists)
G – Kobe Bryant (22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists)
G – Ron Harper (7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists)
And now, the Indiana Pacers…
F – Jalen Rose (18.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4 assists)
F – Dale Davis (10 points, 9.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists)
C – Rik Smits (12.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists)
G – Reggie Miller (18.1 points, 3 rebounds, 2.3 assists)
G – Mark Jackson (8.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8 assists)
Those are some killer starting lineups. Shaq and Kobe for the Lakers, with AC Green there to tell tales of the old Showtime Lakers, not to mention Ron Harper, not far removed from winning three championships with the Bulls, with sharpshooter Glen Rice as the third scorer. For the Pacers, in Jalen Rose, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson, they’ve got three of the most annoying current TV analysts in one starting lineup. Hand down man down, keep getting them checks and while he doesn’t really have a catchphrase, I’m sure we’ll see some flailing legs out of Reggie Miller in this one.
The game starts off with a report from sideline reporter Ahmad Rashad, who tells us that Kobe Bryant’s dealing with a sore ankle, so that’ll be something to monitor throughout the game. Meanwhile, Jim Gray gives us a report on what’s happening over in the Pacers neck of the woods. Seems as though they’ve been provided with the following bulletin board material…
“It’s a nice roof, lot’s of interesting beams, but no championship banners, and they’re not going to get one either, unless they steal one from another team.” – Ron Harper.
As the teams line up for the opening tip, we learn that the Pacers are 7-0 in these Playoffs when they have a lead after the first quarter, so you know they’re going to be looking to come out strong here in Game 4. Oh, and our announcers tonight: Bob Costas and Doug Collins.
Once the game got underway, the Pacers got off to a quick start, with Rik Smits starting the game with 4-4 shooting. He also started the game committing two fouls on Shaq, so soon after he raced out to eight quick points, he had to head to the bench with the foul trouble. The Lakers were able to keep it close, with Shaq not shooting well, but getting Dale Davis into foul trouble as well. Once Davis was gone with two fouls of his own, Sam Perkins, a big man with three point range, entered the ball game. He immediately hit a three, and because of his long range skills, Shaq was drawn out of the paint to cover him, opening up opportunities for the Pacers to get some easy shots near the hoop, including a dunk by Austin Croshere on a nice pass from Perkins with Shaq lingering between Perkins and the paint on defense.
Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, appears to be slowed down by that ankle so far. At the end of the first quarter, he’s got just two points, two assists and two turnovers on 1-4 shooting, while his Pacers counterpart, Reggie Miller, has ten points and three rebounds, despite shooting 2-6. Bryant also played all 12 minutes of the opening quarter on that bum ankle. Although he got Rik Smits, Dale Davis and Austin Croshere in foul trouble (all three have now left the game with two fouls), Shaq hasn’t been shooting well himself, and the Pacers have been able to pull ahead to a nice lead.
Other first quarter highlights
– Bob Costas tells us that if Shaq had gone perfect from the line through the first three games of the series, like Reggie Miller has, he’d be averaging 51 points per game.
– Doug Collins has already called out Reggie Miller for flopping and kicking his legs out while shooting the ball.
– Apparently, this game happened on Sam Perkins 39th birthday.
– We had a Chris Mullin cameo. He came into the game for the Pacers while a solemn Bob Costas informed us that he had only played four minutes in the Finals so far, all in Game 1, and that he didn’t even appear in the Eastern Conference Finals, capping it off by sadly noting that Mullin is one of the greatest players of his generation.
End of first quarter: Pacers 33, Lakers 23
The second quarter kicks off with another report from Ahmad Rashad, who reports that because of all of Kobe Bryant’s ankle treatments, he hasn’t been able to get very much sleep over the past few days, another factor contributing to his slow start. On top of that, we get a look at our leading scorers after one quarter. Reggie Miller’s ten leads the Pacers, and Rik Smits has eight, all scored within the first few minutes of the game before he picked up his second foul. Glen Rice has six to lead LA, while Shaq and Robert Horry have five.
As the quarter rolled along, Kobe Bryant appeared to look as though the ankle was bothering him less. He was moving around a lot better, and he made a great pass, wrapping the ball around two Pacer defenders to Shaq for a dunk. Speaking of the big fella, he started to pick it up after struggling throughout the first quarter from the field. However, he got hit with his third foul, as did Kobe Bryant. The Lakers elected to leave Shaq out there for awhile, while stashing Kobe away on the bench. They got away with it, as Shaq didn’t pick up a costly fourth foul before they finally removed him from the ball game. The other Lakers picked up some of the offensive slack, getting contributions from the likes of Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Robert Horry. As for the Pacers, they surrendered a big chunk of their ten point lead, as the Lakers survived their first volley and chipped away throughout the quarter. Rik Smits continued his fine play from the first quarter, but he also picked up his third foul. Indiana got a good contribution from Derek McKey off the bench as they were able to remain in the lead, despite it getting much smaller.
Other second quarter highlights
– After Rick Fox got a layup, plus a foul, Glen Rice was seen cheering on the bench. Bob Costas called him out for cheering “tepidly” and noted that Fox had been getting a lot of Rice’s minutes as of late.
– Reggie Miller, along with Jalen Rose, got a good bit of rest during the second quarter. Miller, who has 13 points on 2-7 shooting here at halftime, is asked by Jim Gray if that extra rest will prove helpful later on in the game. “We hope so,” answers Miller, “I think only time will tell. You know we, we got off to a big lead, but, you know, LA fought their way back in. You know, hopefully the rest in the second quarter will help us down in the fourth.” Gray then asks how the Pacers take advantage of both Kobe and Shaq being in foul trouble. “They’re both smart players, they know how to stay out of foul trouble,” says a skeptical Miller, “and even though they have three, you know, we know that they’re two go to players, so they’ll be smart about it.” Gray asks, “What will you say to Rik Smits, he has three, he’s been very effective, what will you say to him to keep him in the game in the second half?” Miller responds, “Well, really, uh, Rik has to talk to himself. He has to stay on the floor. And we gotta feed him. If we have a guy going like that, he can put a lot of pressure on Shaq for us.”
Halftime: Pacers 54, Lakers 51
Despite the Lakers getting right back into this one, the Pacers were able to not only rest their two leading scorers (Rose & Miller), they still hold the lead. That could be a major benefit to them over the course of the second half, although I’m sure they wish they were ahead by a wider margin.
Let’s see what Ahmad Rashad has to say for himself to begin the third quarter. Apparently coach Phil Jackson told the Lakers at halftime that they committed too many turnovers, and didn’t grab enough offensive rebounds. He likes that they’re playing aggressively, but they’ve also given up too many fouls. He also told them that they need to play the toughest 20 minutes they’ve played all season. Kobe Bryant also reports that his ankle is indeed bothering him, but he is going to continue to play.
Over by the Pacers bench, Jim Gray told us that coach Larry Bird is happy with his team’s rebounding effort, although, he could do without his team’s turnovers. He told his team that they’re 24 minutes away from being back in this series. I think the Pacers have a clear advantage here, as their head coach is aware of the correct number of minutes in a half of basketball.
While we’re here, let’s look at some of the game’s leaders. Shaq’s leading the Lakers with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Kobe Bryant’s been more of a distributor, leading LA with four assists. Reggie Miller’s scored 13 to lead Indiana, Austin Croshere’s come off the bench for seven rebounds, and Mark Jackson leads them with four assists.
Not long after the second half got underway, Kobe Bryant got hit with his fourth foul. The Lakers elected to leave him in the game, and he did not disappoint. The Pacers immediately got the ball to Mark Jackson to post up Kobe, in hopes of drawing a fifth foul. Instead, Kobe blocked Jackson’s shot attempt, then promptly knocked down three quick shots of his own, seeming energized after picking up his fourth foul. Meanwhile, Shaq went to work on the boards, hauling down nine in the quarter, several of which were of the offensive variety. He also got hit with his fourth foul towards the end of the quarter, and was taken out of the game. Thanks to the two Lakers stars, LA was able to take the lead, their first of the game, but the Pacers are hanging close.
Other third quarter highlights
– Kobe Bryant scored ten in the quarter, on 5-11 shooting. His Pacers counterpart, Reggie Miller, only managed three points on 1-4 shooting.
End of third quarter: Lakers 80, Pacers 77
Coming into this game, Reggie Miller has shot 0-7 in the fourth quarter throughout the Finals. He’s been struggling in this one so far, shooting just 3-11 from the field, though he has scored 16 points. Obviously it’d be a great time for him to heat up as the Pacers look to even this series. The same could be said for the entire Indiana squad. Since jumping out to a ten point lead after the first quarter, they’ve been outscored 57-44.
Miller finally hit his first fourth quarter shot of the series, a fadeaway jumper. He also had Shaq pop out to guard him in the corner, and inexplicably didn’t drive on him, instead passing the ball away, sending color commentator Doug Collins into a tizzy. Miller should have driven the ball, especially since Shaq has four fouls. Anyway, the game remains close early on in the fourth. Miller’s up to 18 points on 4-12 shooting.
9:18 remaining: Lakers 82, Pacers 81
Coming back from a time out, Jim Gray reports that Pacers coach Larry Bird has felt that Reggie Miller’s struggles in the fourth quarter so far are due to fatigue, which is why he gave Miller some extra rest way back in the first half. He also expects Miller to elevate his game in the fourth. He’s hit his first shot of the quarter. Let’s see if it’s the kick in the pants he needs.
Sure enough, after Sam Perkins misses a three, Travis Best, the smallest man on the court, grabs an offensive rebound for Indiana and kicks it out to a wide open Miller for a three, giving the Pacers a two point lead. On their next trip down the court, Jalen Rose finds Perkins all alone in the corner, and this time, he knocks down the shot. Suddenly the Pacers are on a 12-2 run, inspiring the Lakers to call a time out.
7:44 remaining: Pacers 89, Lakers 84
Sounds like a “BEAT LA!” chant is ringing throughout the Conseco Fieldhouse as we return from the time out. After those last two shots, the Pacers are 6-13 from downtown in this one. Shaq continues to dominate in the paint, and he’s hitting an unusually high amount of his free throws. However, he also picked up his fifth foul as he bulldozed his way through the paint against Sam Perkins. The Lakers are keeping him out on the floor, because Perkins is having a hard time guarding him. On the other end of the floor, Perkins is drawing Shaq out of the paint on defense, because Big Smooth’s three point shooting can’t be ignored. Great nickname for Sam Perkins, by the way. Without Shaq clogging the paint on defense, the Pacers have been able to attack the basket more effectively. Reggie Miller continues to come alive down the stretch, getting past Kobe with a nice move for a pretty reverse layup, and hitting another three as Indiana tries to fend off LA. Shaq’s up to 30 points, while Miller’s up to 26.
3:45 remaining: Pacers 98, Lakers 97
We’re up to seven lead changes in the fourth quarter alone, and both Shaq and Reggie Miller have scored ten in the quarter already. The two continue to lead their teams, with Miller knocking down another three to give the Pacers a 101-99 lead. A Shaq free throw makes it 101-100, then Kobe pulls up and hits a jumper to give LA a 102-101 lead. Another free throw from Shaq extends the lead to 103-101, giving him 34 points as the game goes under a minute left. Jalen Rose drives, feels contact and pulls up for a shot. No foul is called, and the shot hits the front rim with Robert Horry grabbing the rebound for LA. He’s fouled by Dale Davis with 44.8 seconds left, a curious foul by Davis, as there’s still enough time for Indiana to get a stop and get the ball back. On top of that, it’s the sixth foul on Davis, so he’s out of the game. Horry cooperates and misses one of his free throws, and the Pacers call a time out.
0:44 remaining: Lakers 104, Pacers 101
Looking for a 2 for 1 opportunity, the Pacers don’t waste any time finding Sam Perkins in the corner. He lets it fly and knocks down a three to tie the game! With 35 seconds left, the Lakers elect to not call a time out and take the ball up the floor. Robert Horry has the ball behind the three point line, and with Glen Rice posting up, Horry sends his entry pass wide of the mark and it sails out of bounds! The Pacers call a time out, as Horry’s coach, Phil Jackson, angrily demands to know why he didn’t just call a time out himself. Within the last minute, Horry has missed a free throw, allowing the Pacers to tie the game, and now he’s thrown the ball away, giving Indiana a chance to win the game and tie the series. Unusual miscues from a man known for his many clutch moments.
0:17 remaining: Pacers 104, Lakers 104
After his clutch three, Sam Perkins is up to ten points off the bench. For what seems like the 50th time, Bob Costas reminds us that it’s his 39th birthday, and this time adds that he plans on retiring after the season. Perkins actually stuck around for one more season after this, but never mind that, because the Pacers have the ball with a chance to win. Travis Best brings the ball up the court, and gets a screen from Perkins. Shaq jumps out to cover him, pitting the biggest man on the court against the smallest. Best dribbles the ball back and forth against Shaq, as Kobe drifts nearby him, leaving Perkins open behind the arc. Best decides to drive and pull up for a shot over Shaq, which is of course an airball that flutters out of bounds with 2.3 seconds left. Unfortunately, he either didn’t see Perkins was so wide open, or just elected to take matters into his own hands anyway, robbing Perkins of a chance to win the game on his 39TH BIRTHDAY!
0:02 remaining: Pacers 104, Lakers 104
The Lakers inbound the basketball to Shaq in the paint. He turns and fires a hook towards the hoop…and it bounces off the rim! We’ve got our very first overtime extravaganza on our tour through NBA History. Travis Best is seen walking to the bench and shaking his head in disgust after his lousy shot failed to win the game for the Pacers.
End of Regulation: Pacers 104, Lakers 104
Before Overtime begins, let’s review the foul situation. Dale Davis has already fouled out for Indiana, Sam Perkins has five fouls, and Rik Smits, who we haven’t seen in awhile, has four. Shaq’s got five fouls for LA, while Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox and Robert Horry all have four. Obviously, Indiana would love to see Shaq pick up his sixth foul. Meanwhile, Travis Best is seen on the Pacers bench with his shoulder wrapped in ice.
As overtime begins, Robert Horry gets right to work redeeming himself after his missed free throw and turnover in the final minute of regulation helped get us here. He fakes a three, then dribbles within the arc for a pull-up jumper to get the extra period started. On the next possession, he gets an offensive rebound off a Shaq miss and dunks it with one hand, giving the Lakers a quick 110-106 lead. On offense, the Pacers keep getting the ball to Rik Smits, back in the game, to try to draw that sixth foul on Shaq. A cautious Shaq eases up on defense, and Smits is able to score over him. Finally, while the two chase after a rebound, Shaq is called for a loose ball foul and has to leave the game, having notched 36 points and 21 rebounds. No problem for the Lakers, as Kobe Bryant takes it upon himself to finish off the game, hitting three long jumpers to keep LA ahead. Smits continues to keep Indiana close, scoring easily over reserve center John Salley, a veteran looking to become the first man in NBA History to win a title with three different teams. As the clock ticks away in the final minute, two Rik Smits free throws bring the Pacers within one point with 28.1 seconds left. Brian Shaw brings the ball across half court for the Lakers, milking the clock down. He eventually gets into the paint for a runner that’s no good, but Kobe grabs the offensive rebound under the hoop, and with his back to the basket, banks the ball in off the glass!
o:05 remaining: Lakers 120, Pacers 117
Obviously, the Pacers are going to need a three here. Reggie Miller seems like the best bet. He’s 6-8 in the game from downtown. Sam Perkins is another good option, having gone 3-5. Mark Jackson’s gone 1-3, but he’d probably be too busy yelling “MAMA, THERE GOES THAT MAN!” to get off a good shot. Austin Croshere’s another decent option, but he’s just 0-1 in the ballgame. As the Pacers prepare to inbound the ball, Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need A Hero” plays in the Conseco Fieldhouse.
Before the Pacers inbound the ball, Rick Fox fouls Jalen Rose as he tries to get open. Since it was before the inbound, the Pacers get one free throw, plus the ball. They also get to choose who shoots the free throw, so Reggie Miller steps to the line with no time coming off the clock. What a terrible foul by Rick Fox! Miller of course knocks down the free throw, putting him at 35 points. The Pacers call another timeout to decide what they’ll do with a chance to tie the game, or win it with a three. Meanwhile, a flabbergasted Phil Jackson holds his fist above his head and pretends to pull a noose around his own throat on the Lakers bench.
0:05 remaining: Lakers 120, Pacers 118
The Pacers inbound the ball for the final shot. It goes to Mark Jackson, who slings the ball to Reggie Miller who is running towards the three point line. Miller gets the pass, sets his feet, and puts up a shot to win it. As it travels towards the hoop, Rik Smits holds his arms up high, only to have the ball bounce off the rim and over the backboard as time expires.
“The Lakers have a 3-1 lead,” says a solemn Bob Costas.
Final Score: Lakers 120, Pacers 118
That was certainly a hell of a game. The Pacers came out strong, but the Lakers hung in there, chipping away at the Indiana lead. Each team hit some clutch shots, and it came right down to the final seconds in overtime. Shaquille O’Neal had a monster game, scoring 36 and grabbing 21 rebounds before fouling out. Kobe Bryant took it from there, finishing the game with 28 points and 5 assists, while just about singlehandedly keeping the Lakers in front after Shaq hit the bench. Reggie Miller scored 35, grabbed five rebounds, and for the first time in the series, came alive during the fourth quarter. His final shot looked good when he released it, especially to Rik Smits, but it just missed the mark. Smits chipped in with 24 points, but only played 22 minutes thanks to foul trouble, and Sam Perkins ability to draw Shaq away from the hoop.
Had that last attempt by Reggie Miller gone in, it would have no doubt been one of the greatest moments in NBA History. The Pacers were that close to tying this series up, but they instead ended the night facing a 3-1 deficit. Even without a legendary final shot, this was a fantastic game, definitely amongst the best I’ve ever watched. In fact, this game was so good, we might just have to watch another one from this series at some point, so stay tuned and keep reading here on The Bonus.