Pistons end Miller's career

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS — The Detroit Pistons didn't feel like celebrating after knocking the Indiana Pacers out of the playoffs and sending Reggie Miller into retirement.

It wouldn't have seemed right, especially after the 39-year-old sharpshooter made a teary-eyed retreat to the bench in the final seconds Thursday night.

''This is a sad day, really,'' Detroit's Chauncey Billups said after Detroit's 88-79 victory sent the Pistons back to the Eastern Conference finals and ensured that Miller's career would end without a championship.

Richard Hamilton scored 28 points and Billups added 23 as Detroit won the best-of-seven series 4-2. The Pistons will open the conference finals on Monday at Miami.

It was the final game for Miller, the NBA's 12th-leading career scorer who is retiring after 18 years in the league. He broke out of a shooting slump and led Indiana with 27 points, and his final basket was a 3-pointer with under 2 minutes left to pull Indiana to 82-79.

Hamilton then hit a basket and Billups added two free throws with 26 seconds left before Miller missed a 3-pointer and left the game to a prolonged, standing ovation — which the Pistons joined in — as the crowd chanted ''Reg-gie, Reg-gie'' with 16 seconds to go.

At the end of the game, the chant changed to ''One more year.''

''It was definitely very emotional,'' Hamilton said. ''I don't think I've ever been in a game where a team that's about to move on and a guy comes out of the game and the other team is cheering.

''For a guy his age, the way he played tonight was unbelievable,'' Hamilton said.

As Miller left the court, he embraced players from both teams.

''I told him thanks. Everybody in the NBA should be saying thank you,'' Hamilton said.

Miller's 27 points were his most since he had 33 in Game 3 of the first-round series against Boston.

''It's somewhat bittersweet,'' Miller said. ''I thought we competed hard tonight. Every time we got a lead, Chauncey and Rip hit big shots to keep them within distance. That's what championship teams do.''

Jermaine O'Neal, still bothered by a sore shoulder that sidelined him late in the regular season, added 22 points and 11 rebounds for Indiana.

The Pacers led almost the entire first half and turned back every Detroit rally until two straight baskets by Hamilton put the Pistons ahead early in the fourth quarter. The final score marked the Pistons' biggest lead of the game.

Detroit has won eight consecutive playoff series clinchers over the last three seasons.

''There were very sentimental emotions from all of us,'' Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. ''Tonight, the reality is we were beaten by a team that's simply better. We played one of our better games tonight and they were able to win a very tough close-out game on the road.''

The Pacers, hoping to extend Miller's career at least one more game, finally found their shooting touch after being blown out the past two games.

Miller, one of the NBA's great clutch shooters who had been stymied into 38 percent shooting through the first five games of this series, shot 11-of-16 and made four 3-pointers. Reminiscent of past playoff glory, two of his 3-pointers came in a span of 39 seconds late in the second quarter after nine straight points by Billups and a free throw by Hamilton brought the Pistons within 40-37.

''I'm just glad I finally made shots,'' Miller said. ''It's been a long and tough series for me. Tonight, I wanted to concentrate on just having fun. ... Tonight, here, with all the fans, I wanted to absorb that and feel their presence.''

Spurs 98, SuperSonics 96

SEATTLE — Tim Duncan took a sharp pass from Manu Ginobili and banked in a short shot with 0.5 seconds left, lifting the San Antonio to a thrilling 98-96 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Thursday night and putting the Spurs into the Western Conference finals.

Duncan had 26 points and nine rebounds, and the Spurs survived his 6-for-21 shooting to win the series 4-2 and move one step closer to a chance for the franchise's second NBA title in three seasons.

Tony Parker and Robert Horry each had 14 points, while Ginobili scored 13 and Nazr Mohammed added 12. The Sonics didn't have much time for a final attempt. Antonio Daniels inbounded to Ray Allen, who lobbed a shot from the left corner over Duncan's head. It bounced off the rim, ending a remarkable season in Seattle.

Allen scored 25 points while Daniels had 22. Jerome James and Damien Wilkins each scored 10 for the Sonics, who played their third straight game without All-Star Rashard Lewis, sidelined by a bruised toe on his left foot. Going into the fourth quarter, Duncan had missed 12 of his 13 field goal attempts, and he didn't make his first shot from the floor until the 5-minute mark of the third period.

But he came though when it really mattered, shooting 5-of-8 from the field and scoring 12 points in the final 12 minutes. Duncan was 14-of-17 from the free throw line, which carried him until the final period.

The Spurs also survived a scare when Duncan curled on the floor and grabbed his left foot with 8:05 remaining. He crashed into Seattle's Nick Collison on a drive, and his ankle turned when he landed squarely on Collison's foot.

After walking it off, the perennial All-Star made two free throws to put San Antonio ahead 78-77 — one of nine lead changes and five ties in the fourth quarter.

The teams traded baskets until Duncan's fifth field goal put San Antonio ahead 95-91 with 1:23 to go.

Daniels drove past Duncan to pull Seattle to 95-93 five seconds later, and James fouled out when Ginobili drove to the basket at the other end. Ginobili made one of two free throws, giving the Spurs a 96-93 lead with 58.4 seconds left.

The Sonics sure had their chances to force a Game 7 on Sunday.

Collison made a tip-in to make it 96-95 with 37.9 seconds remaining, and Duncan's try at the other end bounced off the rim with 14.4 seconds to play. Robert Horry was called for a loose ball foul, putting Daniels on the line.

Daniels missed the first free throw, sending a nervous buzz through the crowd. The second one bounced on the rim and dropped, tying it at 96. When Allen's shot missed moments later, fans stood and cheered Seattle's remarkable run.

The Sonics weren't expected by many to improve much on a 37-win season the year before, but they won the Northwest Division and 52 games.

Now the team faces a long list of offseason questions. Chief among them is whether they'll be able to re-sign Allen, who will be one of the premiere free agents, and if coach Nate McMillan will return.

Things got heated midway through the third period.

Seattle collected three straight offensive rebounds — by Reggie Evans, James and Evans again — but couldn't score. Mohammed and Duncan were credited with blocked shots, the Spurs came away with a rebound and the mood turned ugly.

Boos rumbled off the rafters, McMillan was whistled for a technical foul for protesting the no-call under the basket, and a fan threw a half-empty water bottle onto the court in front of San Antonio's bench.

Notes: With Seattle's loss, the Miami Heat are the only playoff team that hasn't lost a home game. ... Fans cheered when former Sonics star Brent Barry fouled out for the Spurs with 6:03 to play. ... Collison picked up three fouls during a 27-span in the first quarter. ... Mariners RF Ichiro Suzuki got a standing ovation in the second quarter. It was even louder for retired DH Edgar Martinez a few minutes later. ... Ginobili limped to the bench after a collision as the first quarter ended but started the second period.

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