Man that was close. After leading for most of the game and 10 points with 1:43 left in the game, the Raptors went nuts from downtown, hitting four 3-pointers, including three in the last 27 seconds. Fortunately, the Pacers kept their composure and George Hill and Paul George finished them off. Final score, 103-98.
The most noteworthy thing to take from this game is that Darren Collison sat out for the first time this season from a groin injury. Starting in his place, George Hill led the team with 18 points (equal team high with Granger), 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal in 36 minutes. Granted, this is just one game, but I'm sure it will have fans grumbling about how Hill ought to start over Collison, who hasn't been awful but hasn't been great either.
I'm not so sure though. I'd like to see Vogel test the combinations a little more. Hill is known to be a little erratic himself sometimes, especially when his shot isn't falling. Don't forget, he had zero points against the Celtics last game and he's had a few bagels over the last few weeks. And let's face it, Collison is still a better passer, even though he doesn't necessarily show it on a game-by-game basis.
Other positives -- Leandro Barbosa's return to Toronto saw him net 14 points on 5-9 shooting to lead the bench, including a few big buckets in the fourth quarter. Amundson continues to do his best Jeff Foster impersonation with 6 points, 5 boards (2 offensive), 2 steals and a block in 15 minutes. Brandon Rush is doing in Golden State what he has always done since his rookie year (ie, 9 points and a few rebounds) but I'm glad not many people are regretting the trade, especially since the Pacers have Hill and Barbosa, both significant upgrades, especially in the mental department.
As I've said for some time now, these old Boston Celtics are a team I wouldn't want the Pacers to face in the first round of the playoffs.
After coming off an impressive win over the Oklahoma City Thunder yesterday, the tired Pacers, playing their fourth game in five nights, were never really in it against the Celtics in a dismal 86-72 loss. Despite winning the first two in the series against the Celtics this year (when they were kind of in disarray), the Pacers have dropped the last two against them in disappointing fashion.
Although they are old and injured and missing players, you can never count this Celtics team out because they have their Big Four. This group looks like they are ready for one final run and I wouldn't want the Pacers to face them in the first round, even with home court advantage.
At this stage, I'd much rather the Pacers either lock up the third seed or fifth seed (with home court) and face either the Hawks, the 76ers or the fading Magic (although none of them would be easy) rather than the Celtics. Even if the Pacers scrape through the first round, they would probably face the Bulls if they were the fifth seed or the Heat if they were the second seed, and I don't like their chances in either matchup. That said, if Rose continues to be hampered by injuries, I'd give them a slightly better shot against the Bulls.
Of course, that all depends on whether the Pacers can win their first round matchup, and at the moment, none of their potential opponents look like they'll be a pushover.
I can't believe I am doing this, and the fact I feel I need to infuriates the hell out of me. But here I am, defending Reggie Miller's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Last year, Miller didn’t just miss out on being a first-ballot Hall of Famer -- he missed out on being on the finalists’ ballot completely. At the time, some said it was fair. Others called it a travesty. He may not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he certainly deserves to be on the damn ballot. At the end of the day, however, no one really thought it was that big of a deal, as long as Miller’s name eventually ends up in Springfield.
This year, Miller is headlining the class of inductees, which also includes, amongst others, coach Don Nelson, former NBA champ Jamaal Wilkes and ABA star Mel Daniels. And all of a sudden there are now people who are suggesting he doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame at all? Seriously?
If you want to criticize anything, criticize the HOFs selection guidelines, or lack thereof, not the people that get selected because of it. It’s not Miller’s fault that they are letting in so many people most fans have never even heard of.
Inductees are voted in by a small committee based on subjective considerations of merit, meaning whatever they think is relevant. It’s not based on how many championship rings they've won, how many All-NBA First Team selections they've earned or their career Player Efficiency Rating. And while we’re at it, please remember that it’s the Basketball Hall of Fame, not a list of the greatest or most dominant players to have ever played the game.
Miller may not have any championships (neither does Barkley, Ewing, Malone or Stockton), an All-NBA First Team honor (he has three Third Team selections) or a higher career PER (18.4, according to Basketball-Reference.com -- good for 116th in NBA history) to his name, but is he any less deserving than the people that have been selected before him (say Bailey Howell, Maurice Stokes, Adrian Dantley or Chris Mullin)? Is he any less deserving than the people selected for the class of 2012 (a class he is freaking headlining)? The Basketball Hall of Fame needs to be accepted for what it is, not what people think it should be or want it to be.
In any case, let’s take a look at Miller’s basketball career as a whole.
Miller’s raw numbers speak for themselves.
11th overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft
18 seasons for the Indiana Pacers (retiring in 2005)
regular season career averages: 18.2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.7 turnovers
regular season career shooting averages: 47.1% FG, 39.5% 3P, 88.8% FT
playoff career averages: 20.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 steal and 1.8 turnovers
playoff career shooting averages: 44.9% FG, 39% 3P, 89.3% FT
Very good, but not flashy, right? And before I forget, let’s throw in numbers from his college and international careers as well, since it’s the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame (which doesn’t exist).
4 seasons for UCLA (graduating in 1987)
NIT championship (85), Pac-10 championship (87)
college averages: 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2 assists, 54.7% FG, 43.9% 3P, 83.6% FT
FIBA World Championship (1994) gold medal; All-Tournament Team selection; 17.1 ppg
Olympic Games (1996) gold medal; 11.4 ppg
These raw numbers and achievements probably won’t blow anyone away, but his career looks a lot more impressive when you start to put them in perspective.
NBA regular season
14th all-time scorer (25,279)
2nd all-time in three-pointers made (2,560; surpassed only by Ray Allen in 2011)
9th all-time in free throw percentage (88.8%); 12th all-time in free throws made (6,237)
3rd all-time in Offensive Rating (121.48)
6th all-time in True Shooting Percentage (61.39%)
7th all-time in games played (1,389)
3rd all-time in games played with one team (1,389); 2nd all time in seasons with one team (18; behind John Stockton’s 19)
11th all-time in Win Shares (174.40); 7th all-time in Offensive Win Shares
Led the league in free throw percentage 5 times (90-91, 98-99, 00-01, 01-02, 04-05)
Led the league in three-pointers made 2 times (92-93, 96-97)
Led the league in True Shooting Percentage 2 times (90-91, 93-94)
Led the league in Offensive Rating 4 times (90-91, 92-93, 93-94, 98-99)
Career-high 57 points (@Charlotte in 1992)
1 of 5 players in NBA history to have had a 50-40-90 season (ie, to have shot 50% FG, 40% 3P and 90% FT -- others being Larry Bird, Mark Price, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitzki)
20th all-time scorer (2,972)
1st all-time in three-pointers made (320)
9th all-time in free throw percentage (89.3%); 15th all-time in free throws made (770)
11th all-time in True Shooting Percentage (60.1%)
11th all-time in Offensive Rating (119.21)
19th all-time in Win Shares (19.9); 8th all-time in Offensive Win Shares (16.18)
Career-high 41 points (vs Milwaukee in 2000)
Franchise leader in games, points, minutes, field goals, three-pointers, free throws, assists and steals
One of 5 Pacers to have jersey retired (others being Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, Bobby Leonard and George McGinnis)
First franchise player to start in an All-Star game
3rd all-time scorer, 3rd all-time in field goals made, 3rd all-time in 3P%, 4th all-time in FT%, 2nd all-time in free throws made, 8th all-time in steals
2nd all-time in single season points (behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
Holds single season records for league points (1986; 500), league scoring average (1986; 27.8), free throws made (1986; 202)
Holds single game record for free throws in a game (17) and in a half (13), and points in a half (33)
2nd leading scorer at 1994 FIBA World Championship (behind Shaquille O’Neal)
Miller’s numbers start to speak a lot louder when you consider the company he is in. While you ordinarily wouldn’t put Miller in the same category as some of the all-time greats because he wasn’t the type of player that regularly dominated the game, some of his numbers and records suggest otherwise. In particular, Miller’s Similarity Score at Basketball-Reference.com, which finds players throughout NBA history with the same career quality and shape, puts him in the same league as guys like Kobe Bryant, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Jerry West, Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson -- all current or future Hall of Famers.
One of the most common arguments critics use to discredit Miller’s career is that he was “one-dimensional” or that he was a poor defender. I even read a recent article which claimed that all Miller did for 18 seasons was curl off screens. Sorry, but you don’t become the NBA’s 14th all-time leading scorer by just curling off screens. The Knicks’ Steve Novak is one dimensional. Former Pacer James Posey, in his last season, was one dimensional.
But anyone that has watched Miller play, especially during his prime, will know he had a surprisingly wide offensive repertoire. Defensively, his weight and lateral movement gave him problems against bigger, quicker guards, but his height (6’7”) and length troubled them too. And what do you think chasing Miller around all game did to their stamina?
In any event, being an all-round player or a wonderful defender are not prerequisites for the Hall of Fame. That's like saying Dennis Rodman doesn't deserve to be in it because he is not a great scorer or because Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t a good free throw shooter. If Rodman can get in for being one of the greatest rebounders of all-time, then why can’t Miller get in for being one of the greatest, if not the greatest three-point shooter of all-time?
But to debate whether Miller deserves to get in on his three-point shooting or any other of his records is missing the point entirely. The Hall of Fame should, and does, go far beyond numbers and statistics. Miller’s fame (this is the Hall of Fame, mind you) and the impact he has had on the game of basketball, especially in Indiana, the Hoosier state, puts him right up there with the all-time greats.
Miller was the face of a franchise for almost his entire career. He was Indiana’s best player for more than a decade. How many players in NBA history can say the same thing?
If you ask anyone to name a single player to have played for the Indiana Pacers, even now, chances are they would say Reggie Miller. If you ask any New York Knicks fan which player has tormented their team more than any other, apart from Michael Jordan (and possible Carmelo Anthony -- kidding), chances are they would say Reggie Miller. If you ask who they would want to take a last second three-pointer with their team down by two, Reggie Miller would likely be in the top five, if not number one.
If you ask someone to name the most memorable moments in NBA playoff history off the top of their head, chances are they will include Miller’s 25-point fourth quarter against the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs, and if not, certainly his 8 points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks a year later. And what about his game-winning three-pointer over Michael Jordan in the 98 East finals, or my personal favorite, the 39-foot buzzer-beating bank shot to force the first overtime, and then the two-handed dunk to force the second one against the top-seeded Nets in 2002? How many players outside of Michael Jordan has had so many defining moments in their careers?
I get it if people want to diminish Miller’s achievements because he’s not the type of player traditional fans like. He plays for the small market Pacers. He looks like an alien and is so thin he might slip through the cracks in the floorboards; he flops a lot, likes to talk trash and enjoys playing the villain. And yes, he pushed off Jordan and then danced around in circles like a little girl (and that was because he was playing with a badly sprained ankle, for those who don’t remember). But he also struck fear into the hearts of his opponents like only the greats could.
He was a truly unique player, the kind the NBA might never see again. For that, and the impact his remarkable career had on UCLA, the Indiana Pacers, the NBA, Team USA and the sport of basketball in general -- for more than two decades -- no one should question Reggie Miller’s rightful inclusion in the Hall of Fame ever again.
I guess you could call it a surprise. The Thunder were coming off two straight losses and the Pacers had won three in a row, though two of them were quite shaky (against the Rockets and Knicks).
I expected Durant and Westbrook to explode on the Pacers like they did last season, but the Pacers surprised me with their execution and resilience today as they raced out to a 24 point lead before holding off the Thunder, 103-98. I knew the game would be close, even when the Pacers were up by more than 20. The Thunder are just that kind of team -- no matter what the score was, I could see the fire in their eyes. They were going to just keep attacking until the final buzzer.
Fortunately for the Pacers, a full team effort led by Danny Granger's 26 points and Roy Hibbert's 21 and 12 (plus 4 blocks) was enough to get it done. Paul George had a career high 16 rebounds, even though he only scored 8 and fouled out; David West had 14, and Darren Collison backed up his best performance of the season (17 and 11 against the Wiz) with 11 points, including a massive dagger over Derek Fisher with the clock winding down in the 4th quarter to give the Pacers a 6 point lead with seconds to go and essentially ice the game.
Best win of the season? The fact that I need to think about it means the Pacers have a few great victories to choose from. I just hope they have not peaked too early. They need to keep up this momentum tomorrow night against a highly dangerous Celtics team, the one team I would not want the Pacers to face in the first round.
At the moment the 34-21 Pacers are 3rd in the East with 11 more games to go. A third seed finish would mean that even if they win their first round match-up they would likely face the Miami Heat in the second round. A fifth seed finish (they can't be the fourth seed, even though they can have homecourt advantage in the first round) means they could face either Atlanta, the Celtics or Philly in the first round, and probably the Bulls in the second. It's going to be rough either way, but the possibilities are making this particular fan very excited.
To be honest, I was ready for a loss. The Pacers have been shaky as of late, even though they had been winning. Their game against the Wizards in Washington was a potential let down game. They escaped with a huge turnaround victory and held on in another close one in two games against the Wizards lately, but the Pacers weren't going to let one of the worst teams in the NBA give them any more problems this season.
So they went out and took care of business, 109-96, behind Darren Collison's 17 and 11. That's right, 11 assists, something we really should see a lot more of from Mr Collison.