- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers are dominating the NBA Playoffs like no other team in history.

Reggie Miller scored 19 points in 18 minutes last night to lead Indiana to a 91-80 win over Miami, the Pacers’ league-record sixth straight double-digit playoff victory. The previous record was held by the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers and 1947 Philadelphia Warriors.

Ron Artest had 20 points and five assists for the Pacers, who take a 2-0 series lead to Miami — where the Heat have won 16 straight games — for tomorrow’s Game3. And the Pacers don’t even think they have peaked yet.

“We can play much better,” Miller said. “We’re finding ways to win, which is encouraging, but we have to play better.”

Miller’s biggest shot was a 3-pointer off one leg with Eddie Jones’ hand in his face to beat the second-quarter buzzer and get the Pacers rolling.

The 38-year-old Miller was 6-for-10 from the field with three 3-pointers

“Reggie Miller just killed us,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s done it before. We’re not the first team he’s done it to. It’s not a coincidence when he makes big shots.”

The Heat were in it in the first half despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor. Jones hit two free throws to bring Miami within five before a critical mistake at the buzzer.

With 1.6 seconds to play in the half, Jones allowed Miller to catch a inbounds lob at the top of the key. Miller heaved a shot that swished at the buzzer for a 44-36 lead.

“The one going into the half was a heartbreaker for us,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had 19 points, five assists and six turnovers.

Miller added two more 3-pointers in the first 4:30 of the second half to hold off the hard-charging Heat.

“He was playing within the offense, and he was on fire,” Artest said. “It seems like he’s always on fire in big games.”

Lamar Odom led Miami with 19 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 4:05 to play. Miami battled throughout but again got bogged down in the Pacers’ preferred halfcourt style.

After outscoring the Pacers 14-0 in transition in Game1, the Heat managed just eight fastbreak points and couldn’t find good shots against the Pacers’ suffocating halfcourt defense.

Miami shot 40.5 percent for the game and was 1-for-6 from 3-point range. The Pacers, on the other hand, made seven 3s to offset being dominated on the boards again.

“It’s the same old problems for us,” Van Gundy said. “We competed hard. We attacked the basket, but they were just too much. They have too many weapons.”

Miami does have reason for optimism heading into Game3. In the first two games of the series, the undersized Heat have outrebounded Indiana 91-77 and held All-Star Jermaine O’Neal in check.

O’Neal, who finished third in the MVP voting, had 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting and spent most of Game2 in foul trouble. In Game1, O’Neal scored 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting.

“I’m putting too much pressure on myself to make things happen,” O’Neal said. “I just have to relax and let the game come to me.”

Still, the Heat only have two losses to show for their effort as they head back to AmericanAirlines Arena, where they haven’t lost since March2 and always seem to play at a faster pace.

“Somehow, some way, we have more fastbreak points at home in Miami,” forward Caron Butler said. “I don’t understand it, but we play so much better in the fastbreak game at home.”

The Pacers extended their lead to 20 points in the fourth quarter with reserves Anthony Johnson, Jonathan Bender, Austin Croshere and Scot Pollard on the floor.

“To put points on the board night in and night out, that’s Al [Harrington], Jermaine and Ron’s job,” Miller said. “There might be nights when they’re struggling and others that step up. That’s what makes our team hard to beat because you never know where it’s going to come from.”

It wasn’t all good news for Indiana. Starting center Jeff Foster left the game in the third quarter with a bruised right hip. He appeared to injure it while going for a rebound on the offensive end in the first quarter.

Foster is one of the team’s best rebounders and led the Pacers with 10 in their Game1 victory on Thursday night. After the game, Foster said he plans to play in Game3.

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