Wednesday , May , 19 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Pacers were put to the test by the Heat

(Sports Network) – The top-seeded Indiana Pacers knocked off the Miami
Heat in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals and have earned the
right to play for a spot in the NBA Finals.

In Game 6, Ron Artest netted 27 points and 38-year-old Reggie Miller
contributed 15 points and six rebounds, as the Pacers beat the fourth-seeded
Heat, 73-70, at AmericanAirlines Arena to advance to the conference finals
for the first time since 2000. Indiana captured the only road victory of the
series in Game 6 as its three other wins came at home (Games 1, 2 and 5),
while Miami’s two wins in the set came in front of its home crowd (Games 3 and
4).

“I couldn’t be happier for our team and our players,” said Indiana head coach
Rick Carlisle. “Heading into this series, people predicted a sweep but we knew
it was going to be much tougher than that. As the series went on, some people
bailed out on us. Most people predicted Miami to win tonight’s game (Game 6)
and there was no reason not to.”

Indiana’s starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley scored 10 points, grabbed six
rebounds and handed out a team-high three assists in the series-
clinching victory. He drained some clutch shots down the stretch and
played tough defense.

“The Heat were doing a great job on Jermaine (O’Neal) and Ron (Artest),” said
Miller. “Even though Ron carried us offensively in spurts, when it came down
to clutch time, they did a good job of taking them out of it. It had to come
from somewhere, and Jamaal (Tinsley) on defense and hitting some big shots.”

All-Star forward Jermaine O’Neal finished with just seven points and a game-
high 13 rebounds for Indiana, which improved to 6-0 all-time in Eastern
Conference semifinal series.

“In Game 6, it is going to be a defensive struggle,” said O’Neal. “Both teams
are going to play extremely hard. I’ll take a game like this all day, scoring
seven points, blocking a couple of shots, getting some rebounds and getting
the win. That’s what it is about. A championship team does that.”

Rookie phenom Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 24 points in Game 6, while Lamar
Odom ended with 22 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

“I am not disappointed in my players or in my team,” said Miami head coach
Stan Van Gundy. “I am more disappointed for them. They battled extremely hard.
We just didn’t play well enough offensively or make enough shots. Both teams
played extremely hard. One guy on each team played real well: Wade for us, and
Artest for them. Everyone else struggled. They shot 11 more free throws than
we did. They made seven more shots at the line and that really came down to
the difference in the game.”

Wade ended the series averaging 21 points, four rebounds and 5.7 assists. The
Marquette product was spectacular in his postseason debut, as he averaged 18
points, four boards and 5.6 helpers in 13 playoff contests. Miami’s starting
point guard proved that he is an exciting player to watch and that he has a
bright future in league.

“I have grown in a lot of ways,” said Wade. “I came and they asked if I could
play point guard, then I end up playing the role of point guard all season.”

O’Neal averaged 20.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and two blocks in the six games
against the Heat.

“You have to tip your hat to this Miami team,” said O’Neal after Game 6’s
victory. “They are very well-coached and they play with a lot of heart. It is
a team that you really have to watch in a couple of years. I think they are
one post player away from being one of the elite teams. To come into this
building and get a win, you have to bring it.”

Indiana, which is 5-0, as the host in the postseason, improved to 3-2 on the
road in the playoffs this year with the victory in Game 6 against the Heat.
The Pacers were able to take home a victory in a very hostile environment at
AmericanAirlines Arena.

“It’s very hard to play here (AmericanAirlines Arena),” said Tinsley. “I
don’t know what type of noise they have, what type of claps they have. It’s
just very difficult to play here.”

Artest, who was also an All-Star and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year,
contributed 21.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game against the
Heat.

Indiana, which had been eliminated three straight year’s in the first round,
defeated the New York Knicks in six games in the 2000 conference finals, which
was its last appearance in that round. The Pacers would go on to lose in the
NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pacers are 1-4 all-time in Eastern Conference final series. Indiana fell
in seven games to the Knicks in 1994, lost in seven contests to the Orlando
Magic in 1995, was eliminated once again in seven games by the Chicago Bulls
in 1998 and was dismissed in six contests by New York in 1999.

Indiana will host Games 1 and 2 of the conference finals at Conseco
Fieldhouse.

IND MIA