On May 7, 1995, a miracle happened in the NBA Playoffs that involved the Indiana Pacers. No, I'm not speaking about the moment that was dubbed “The Memorial Day Miracle”, which happened on May 29, 1995.
The miracle on Memorial Day involved Rik Smits' buzzer-beating game-winner in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic.
In order to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers had to go through their biggest rivals, the hard-hitting New York Knicks.
The Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks met up in the Eastern Conference Finals the year before and a grueling seven-game series occurred.
In the 1994 series, Reggie Miller became a household name with his game 5 performance in the Garden. The Pacers entered the fourth quarter trailing 58-70 with the series tied at two. It wasn't looking good for the Pacers, then, Spike Lee happened.
Acclaimed filmmaker and self-proclaimed Biggest New York Knick Fan in the world started yapping to Reggie Miller.
Now, in 1994 the NBA was in sort of a small crisis… the need for a star guard. Michael Jordan, the NBA's greatest player and biggest “box office draw”, was retired and the league was dominated by centers.
So, when Spike Lee talked trash to Reggie Miller, the Indiana Pacers and the NBA got a wonderful gift. The Pacers won the game and the NBA found their star guard.
Reggie Miller scored 25 points in the fourth quarter all while throwing shade at Spike Lee, after every made field goal (and free throw).
Reggie finished the game with 39 points on 14-26 from the field and 6-11 from three-point land.
The unfortunate thing for the Pacers was, after winning game 5 and taking a 3-2 series lead, they would lose the next two games, including a heart breaker in game seven, which was played in New York.
Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks 1995 Semifinals
Yes, the very next season, on the 7th of May, the Indiana Pacers would square off again against the New York Knicks, this time in the second round.
The Knicks would once again have the home-court advantage and they would look to repeat from last year by beating the Pacers.
As game one wound down, the Knicks were feeling good. They had a six-point lead with 18.7 seconds left in the game.
- Knicks 105
- Pacers 99
Spike Lee was celebrating as Pacer fans around the world were crying. Then, Reggie Miller happened… again.
Up to this point, Reggie Miller was struggling from the field. He only shot 5-16 from the floor and 1-5 from distance up to that point for 23 points. This would all quickly change.
Mark Jackson of the Indiana Pacers threw the ball inbounds to Reggie Miller, who easily got open from behind the arch.
Reggie fired and made the three:
- Knicks 105
- Pacers 102
With 16.4 seconds remaining, Anthony Mason of the Knicks looked to inbounds the ball to Greg Anthony. The problem for the Knicks was that Greg Anthony fell down (Reggie pushed him) just as Anthony Mason threw the ball in.
The ball fell right into Reggie's hands and this is what Reggie said about the play:
"I easily could have gone in for the lay-in. I said, 'Let me get back to the 3 and tie her up'.”
That's what Reggie did. He took one dribble and backed up behind the three-point line and buried his second straight three.
- Knicks 105
- Pacers 105
This is where things fall apart when you normally hear the story. Yes, Reggie Miller did score 8 points in 8.9 seconds, but how did he get the remaining two points?
The highlights only show the two three-point field goals Reggie made, but he did indeed score two more points.
Now, if you know somewhat of the games you know Reggie nailed two free throws to give the Pacers the lead, but do you know how and why the foul occurred?
If this is a question you've pondered, then you're at the right place.
After Reggie tied the game with 13.2 seconds remaining, the ball was inbounded to Knicks sharpshooter John Starks, who was intentionally fouled by the Pacers' Sam Mitchell.
Now, why would you foul with the game tied and only 13.2 seconds left? Why would you especially foul a shooter (John Starks) who shot 73.7% from the line in the season?
The reason was that the Pacers' Sam Mitchell lost track of the score.
"I wasn't trying to foul," Mitchell said. "I was trying to pressure the ball. I thought Reggie's shot was a two and we were down by a point. I knew they didn't have any timeouts left. It was a mental mistake on my part. Fortunately, we were able to rebound from it."
Yes, the Pacers would be fortunate after the careless foul because Starks missed the first free throw.
Reggie Miller said this after Stark's first miss:
"There is no way he's going to miss the second. There is absolutely no way."
Well, Starks did miss the second free throw and a battle was underway to secure the rebound.
The ball was batted around by a few players before landing in the hands of the Knicks' best player, Patrick Ewing, who put up a short jumper, to give the Knicks the lead back… he missed.
Reggie Miller grabbed Ewing's miss and was quickly fouled by John Starks with 7.5 seconds remaining.
The pressure now fell on Reggie's shoulders, who up to that point had shot 12-13 from the free-throw line. Would he choke like Starks? No, we would not (of course).
Reggie Miller calmly made both free throws, and the Knicks, with no timeouts left, threw the ball in and made a mad dash toward their hoop.
Greg Anthony of the New York Knicks would stumble on his way to the hoop, turning the ball over and securing the loss for his team.
- Knicks 105
- Pacers 107
The series would end up going to seven games, just like the previous year, but unlike 1994, the Pacers would pull off a 97-95 victory to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Indiana Pacers would eventually lose to the Orlando Magic in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Reggie Miller's incredible comeback would go down in NBA Playoff lore.
Reggie Miller cemented himself as one of the best shooting guards in the game and one of the best of all time.
The Pacers would meet the Knicks three more times in the playoffs, including two more times in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pacers would win two of those meetings, including in 2000, where they would advance to their first and only NBA Finals.
The Pacers would go on to lose to Shaq, Kobe, and the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the finals.
Reggie Miller would never win a title, but when you name the greatest shooters in NBA history, you must bring up his name.
Now that you know how the play went down, do you think Reggie's 8 points in 8.9 seconds is the greatest clutch play in NBA history?
I know one fan who certainly does not think it is: Spike Lee.