- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2000

As off guards, Reggie Miller and Allen Iverson play the same position, which is about their only similarity.

Miller plays the game with subtlety, in an unfashionable manner, moving as he does without the ball, always moving, evoking comparisons to John Havlicek. Iverson is a dribble-penetrator, not unlike a number of twenty-somethings in the NBA, only he is more effective at it than most.

Miller hits shots that rip your heart out. He hits step-back jumpers from 20 feet, the toughest shot there is in basketball. He hits pull-up jumpers and 3-pointers.

He runs off screens, curling one way, going the other way, losing the defender. He does not require a lot of space to shoot the ball. He requires only a half step, given his catch-and-shoot proclivity.

Miller does some of his best work away from the ball, dragging a defender from one side of the court to the other, wearing the person down, daring the person to run with him.

Miller is built like a long-distance runner. It appears as if he never has been in a weight room. He is all arms and legs, and protruding ears, too, flailing away, using all his acting ability to elicit a foul call from the referees.

He beats you off the dribble only when it is necessary. He knows that putting the ball on the floor is only an adjunct to putting the ball in the hole.

Miller does not drive to the basket to strut his double-pump stuff. He drives to the basket only if he sees a genuine opening. He figures that an open 15-footer is a higher-percentage shot than an acrobatic maneuver in heavy traffic around the basket.

Iverson is fearless, almost hopelessly so, a tough competitor who is beat up and said not to have one body part in proper working order.

Iverson works hard to score, sometimes too hard, and seems to take driving to the basket as a commentary on his manhood.

Yet going to the basket is not always the smartest option, which is why Iverson sometimes endures cold shooting stretches in a game. He is a scorer, not a pure shooter, and his shot selection could be improved, as 76ers coach Larry Brown has pointed out on a number of occasions.

Shot selection is a source of ongoing contention between the coach and the player. Iverson is gifted enough to lead the 76ers to the conference semifinals for the second consecutive season. But he needs help to lead the 76ers beyond there, and he needs to encourage the help.

Miller is able to step away from the Pacers offense. He does not massage the ball or have the dribble-dribble-dribble addiction. He knows when to let Jalen Rose get his touches. He knows it is necessary to dump the ball down to Rik Smits, especially early in the game. He knows how to work with Mark Jackson and Travis Best, two point guards with antithetical styles.

Miller could shoot 25 times in every game if it were deemed necessary. That course might work in one game. It might work in two games. But ultimately, in the playoffs, if a team is to be all it can be, it must establish two or three weapons on offense.

Two seasons ago, Rose was a role player who came off the bench for the Pacers. Now he is a starter who is nearly Miller's equal. Rose actually led the Pacers in scoring at 18.2 ppg. during the regular season, one-tenth of a point higher than Miller's lowest average since his second season in the NBA.

Rose's development has occurred in part because of Miller's maturity to put the team ahead of his ego. Miller no longer feels a need to be validated. He is eventually going to the Hall of Fame, and he plays now, at 34 years old, only to go where he never has been: to the NBA Finals and possibly a championship.

Miller has hit a zillion big shots in his career, and he is doing it again in these playoffs, and he has led the Pacers to a 3-0 lead over the singularly devoted 76ers, and soon he will be up against either the Knicks or the Heat, making another push to June.

Iverson, meanwhile, is still young, still learning, just starting to acknowledge his limitations, one of which is his smallish frame that needs a good offseason in the weight room.

Experience is sometimes a hard-to-define quality.

In the series featuring Miller and Iverson, it is not so hard.

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