INDIANAPOLIS -- Back home in Indiana, the Pacers turned into a different team.
They pushed, the Lakers didn't push back. They attacked, the Lakers retreated. They were desperate, the Lakers were not.
Playing with a confidence bordering on cockiness and ditching their collective inferiority complex, the Indiana Pacers earned themselves some breathing room Sunday night. Getting 33 points and one angry glance from Reggie Miller, 21 points from Jalen Rose and a number of timely shots from Travis Best, they defeated Los Angeles 100-91 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
''Yeah, these guys were very emotional tonight,'' Pacers coach Larry Bird said. ''They played with heart today, they battled today, they really took it serious.''
Refusing to be pushovers and eager to get in the Lakers' faces, the Pacers had a brazen quality that had been missing in Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles. Instead, they took a double-digit lead early, went ahead by as many as 18 and shrugged off the Lakers' rally in the fourth to cut their deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Miller all but sealed the victory by making two free throws with 2:02 left, casting an angry stare at Lakers coach Phil Jackson as he turned upcourt. After Ron Harper hit a 3-pointer to make it a three-point game with 14.8 seconds left, Miller calmly made two from the line -- sans the stare this time, but with an emphatic side-to-side shake of his head -- to make it 96-91.
''By no means did we think it was over being down two-zip, and I'm glad the country knows it now,'' Indiana's Mark Jackson said.
Best had 14 points and Austin Croshere added 12 for the Pacers, who were not afraid to confront the Lakers -- whether it be with flagrant fouls, dirty looks or timely shots.
Despite not making a fourth-quarter field goal for the third straight game, Miller had his best game of the series as he shot 11-for-22, played 46 of a possible 48 minutes and showed some of the brazen attitude and feistiness that so defines his game.
''I can't play quiet. There's no way,'' he said. ''I play on emotion and excitement, and it's always been that way.
''If we were down 3-0, you could pretty much have written us off.''
Game 4 is Wednesday night, and by then the Lakers should have Kobe Bryant back in the lineup.
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