After Miller announced that he’s retiring after the season, Houston’s Bob Sura scored 17 points, Tracy McGrady added 16 and the Rockets held the Pacers to a single point in the final 7 minutes in a 91-83 victory Friday night.
“Being the first game after Reggie announced that he is retiring, I think we spoiled it a little bit,” McGrady said. “It was a pretty packed house and there was a lot of energy in the building. Hey, we wish Reggie well, but we needed a win.”
After trailing by 15 points, Indiana rallied to tie it at 82, with Miller hitting two 3-pointers. But the Pacers missed their final 12 shots and the Rockets pulled away in the closing minutes.
“I just want our team to play better,” Miller said of his 33 remaining regular-season games. “We haven’t really found our stride this year. We’ve played well in stretches, but we haven’t played consistently.”
“At the end of the game, we wanted to defend Reggie well,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “It was a hard-fought win. They made a run and we were able to hold them off. … I’ve seen him (Miller) do that to me enough.”
Miller came back into the game with a minute to go but missed his final shot, finishing 4-of-10 for the game. Jermaine O’Neal was even worse, going 7-of-23 and missing his last nine attempts.
“They were quicker to the ball,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
“When you have an announcement like this, it gets your attention and makes you swallow hard,” he said of Miller’s retirement announcement. “It adds extra meaning to these 33 games.”
Yao Ming added 16 points for Houston, Juwan Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Wesley added 13 points. O’Neal and Stephen Jackson had 18 points apiece for the Pacers, Fred Jones finished with 14, and Miller and Anthony Johnson added 11 each.
“The last 5 or 6 minutes, they turned up their intensity, but we didn’t,” Jackson said. “We have to rebound better and get stops.”
The Rockets missed their first eight shots and got into early foul trouble as the Pacers scored the first eight points of the game. Jackson had 13 points in the opening period, including two free throws after McGrady’s second foul, a basket on a goaltending call against Yao and a basket and free throw after Wesley’s second foul.
Jackson left the game with his second foul with a minute left in the period, and Houston finished with an 11-4 run, taking its first lead at 29-28 on a 3-pointer by Ryan Bowen with 2 seconds to go.
There were four lead changes and three ties in the second quarter before two baskets by McGrady and two free throws by Howard put Houston in control. A 3-pointer by Wesley gave the Rockets a 53-46 lead at the half, then after two straight 3-pointers by Miller early in the third quarter, the Rockets began pulling away.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Wesley and Sura pushed the lead to 65-54, and the Rockets stretched it to 77-62 in the next two minutes before Yao left with his fourth foul.
Indiana closed to 80-70 at the end of the quarter and scored the first 10 of the final period, tying the game at 80 on a 3-pointer by Johnson. The last tie was at 82 before a basket by McGrady put Houston ahead to stay.
Miller received huge cheers and a standing ovation during pregame introductions. … One young fan held a sign reading “Thanx for being such a great role model Reggie” … Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley, expected to miss his sixth straight game because of a bruised left foot, made a surprise start but played only the first 2 minutes and did not score. Tinsley led Indiana with 28 points in an 87-74 win at Houston last month. … With two 3-pointers against the Pacers, Wesley has hit 15 of 20 from long range in the last five games, and the Rockets have won 17 of 23 games since he came to Houston from the Hornets in December. … The win was Houston’s fourth in a row on the road, its longest winning streak away from home in five years.