PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference semifinals; tied 1-1.
After stealing homecourt advantage with a win in Game 2, the Pacers return to Conseco Fieldhouse when they continue their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Detroit Pistons.
Miller had 19 points and Jeff Foster grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds Wednesday to lead the Pacers to a 92-83 win over the Pistons that tied the series 1-1.
Indiana can now win the series by winning its three home games. Detroit, meanwhile, must steal a game in Indianapolis.
Miller, who plans to retire after the season, knows the Pacers must improve their play at home if they hope to take the series.
“Nothing is secure for us at home. We lost twice at home against Boston,” Miller said, recalling the Pacers’ first-round meeting with the Celtics. “That’s probably a bad thing for us, and a good thing for Detroit.”
Detroit stole homecourt advantage in Game 2 of last season’s Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, and went on to win the NBA title. The Pistons’ hopes of bouncing back may rest with the health of Hamilton.
Hamilton played the second half with his right calf wrapped after hurting it in the first half, but says he doesn’t believe the injury is serious. He finished with 14 points, but shot 6-for-17 from the field and had seven turnovers—one more than the rest of his teammates combined.
Hamilton didn’t use the injury as an excuse.
“This motivates us, more than anything,” said Hamilton, who had a game-high 28 points in Detroit’s 96-81 victory in Game 1 Monday.
Many wrote the Pacers off when their Nov. 19 brawl with the Pistons and their fans led to suspensions, but the Pacers didn’t let the loss of Ron Artest and others—or injuries later in the season—devastate them.
After losing Game 1 by 15, the Pacers trailed by 15 after the first quarter Wednesday and didn’t take the lead until there was 4:10 left in the third when Miller’s 3-pointer capped an 11-4 run.
“I don’t think any pro team—in any sport—can handle what we’ve handled,” said Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal, who had 22 points. “Our goals haven’t changed. Our goals are to get to the NBA Finals, and win a championship. We still believe.”
Indiana even pulled off a rare road win in a Game 7 of the first round at Boston.
“These guys have been tough. They’ve been through a lot,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “When they get knocked down, they tend to get back up fighting.”
Miller, an 18-year veteran, scored just two points in each of the first two quarters before scoring 15 in the second half. He scored six points in the series opener.
The Pistons had won eight straight home playoff games dating to last year’s conference finals.
Detroit, which usually has a frontcourt advantage, was outscored 38-20 in the paint Wednesday. It was the first time this postseason Indiana has held an advantage in the post. The Pacers had been outscored inside by an average of 15.5 points per game.
Ben Wallace dominated Game 1 with 21 points, 15 rebounds and four steals, but was limited to three points—on 0-for-4 shooting—Wednesday.
After scoring 50 points and shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, the Pistons were limited to 33 points on 32 percent shooting after halftime.
“I was expecting a long series anyway; you never can expect a short one,” Billups said. “This is going to be a good series. … Like I said, you have two teams that play the same way and run a lot of the same stuff. It’s going to come down to late situations most nights.”
Game 4 is Sunday in Indianapolis.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 21.3 ppg; Ben Wallace, 13.1 rpg; Billups, 7.3 apg. Pacers - Jackson, 17.8 ppg; O’Neal, 7.9 rpg; Anthony Johnson, 4.7 apg.