Miller was ejected as part of a flurry of five technical fouls in less than two minutes of the first quarter, and the Pacers never really recovered in a 99-86 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Pacers have assumed the top spot in the Eastern Conference with an aggressive style, generating a handful of incidents that have gotten under the skin of some opponents and referees.
Pacers players and coach Isiah Thomas were in referee Joey Crawford’s crosshairs as he assessed all but one of the technicals. He rang up Brad Miller at the 6:14 mark, then nailed Reggie Miller for coming too far off the bench with 4:35 left.
Seven seconds later, Bill Spooner tossed Reggie Miller for arguing. That brought a protest from Thomas, whom Crawford whistled for a technical. Just 12 seconds after play resumed, All-Star forward Jermaine O’Neal argued a call and also was given a technical.
“I don’t know what happened,” Thomas said. “I just know technicals were called all over the place.”
“You’re going to have to ask some other people. I don’t want to comment,” Brad Miller said. “I don’t want to lose any money. That didn’t lose the game, that happened early. That’s not an excuse at all. We just didn’t play like we should.”
Reggie Miller departed with just one point and his outside shooting was sorely missed as Indiana went just 1-of-4 from 3-point range.
“It makes a huge difference,” Thomas said. “Reggie has been playing extremely well for us. He’s a huge threat and a weapon for what we do.”
The Hawks made all five free throws to help them bolt to a 29-14 lead in the final minute of the opening period. They never trailed again, pulling away in the fourth quarter as Jason Terry scored 16 of his 26 points.
Terry was quick to recognize that Crawford and Spooner meant business and wisely kept his mouth shut.
“It was a situation where you have to read the refs,” he said. “Some nights you have to watch yourself. I definitely wasn’t saying anything.”
Jamaal Tinsley scored a season-high 21 points and Brad Miller and Al Harrington added 16 for the Pacers, who had won four of their last five games but shot just 35.5 percent (27-of-76) as they clearly missed their sharpshooter.
“He’s a big part,” Tinsley said. “Him not being there, it just made everybody cheat more and it showed in our outside shots.”
Reggie Miller left without speaking to reporters.
In addition to the technical foul, O’Neal had foul trouble. The All-Star forward picked up his third foul with 8:51 left in the second quarter and never really was a factor, collecting 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite the unavailability of Miller and O’Neal, the Pacers closed to 49-45 at halftime. A 3-pointer by Tinsley made it 53-52 with 9:37 left in the third quarter, but Terry drilled a 3-pointer to start a 7-0 spurt.
A layup by Dion Glover gave Atlanta a 70-58 advantage with 3:13 remaining before it settled for a 72-65 lead entering the final period, where Terry took over.
After two free throws and a three-point play by Brad Miller cut the deficit to 82-77 with 6:06 remaining, Terry made a pair of 3-pointers around a jumper by Miller.
A free throw by Miller made it 90-84 with 3:35 to go, but Terry had a fast-break layup and two free throws to seal it.
“It was all set up on the defensive end,” Terry said. “We were getting stops and getting into the offense we wanted. Once we got those stops, the rest took care of itself.”
Theo Ratliff had 11 points, seven rebounds and six blocks for the Hawks, who shot 48 percent (35-of-73) and held a 43-33 edge on the boards.