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Pacers save best for last shot, 94-93 victory

THE BALTIMORE SUN

INDIANAPOLIS -- One-point-three seconds?

Piece of cake.

There may have been better basketball games, but there have never been 13.3 seconds like yesterday's, when the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers swapped the lead three times before Rik Smits made a 14-footer at the buzzer, giving Indiana a 94-93 victory and a 2-2 tie in the NBA's Eastern Conference finals.

An hour after the game, there were still crowds of happy fans on the streets and cars cruising downtown, blaring their horns.

"That was great," said Pacers guard Reggie Miller. "That was unbelievable. The world was watching that."

Well, maybe just the basketball world, but it was a bona-fide thriller, a classic, one of the most memorable NBA playoff games. History will decide, but here was how those final seconds went:

* With 13.3 seconds left, and Shaquille O'Neal and Horace Grant fouled out, Brian Shaw made a three-point shot, putting Orlando up 90-89.

* With 5.2 left, Miller made a three-pointer, putting Indiana up 92-90.

* With 1.3 left, Anfernee Hardaway made a three-pointer, putting Orlando up 93-92.

* With 1.3 left, the Pacers inbounded the ball to Smits, who faked ancient Tree Rollins into the air, stepped under and made his game-winner with no time on the clock.

Replays showed the ball was away in time, although they couldn't vouch for whether the timekeeper started the clock when he should have. Magic players, of course, recognized foul play when they were a victim of it.

"I would give Rik Smits the ball again with 1.3 seconds left and see how long that took him in any other building," Grant said. "It was truly amazing."

Said Magic coach Brian Hill: "Maybe it was 1.39."

Maybe it was 1.39999, but it was a Magic mistake, too. The 7-foot Rollins was supposed to stay on his feet, raise his arms and make Smits shoot over him.

Rollins, 38, is a player-coach, but once a shot-blocker, always a shot-blocker. Like a dog chasing cars, Rollins may not get many but he still goes after them, and when Smits faked, Rollins soared, opening the door to the hoop.

"Unfortunately, we left our feet on the play," Hill said. "If we body up, he doesn't have a chance to make that play."

It was just a bad day to be a Magician.

Incensed that O'Neal had been held to 30 minutes by foul trouble in Game 3, the Magic complained for two days, setting up the next refereeing crew -- only to have Mike Mathis, king of the superstar-bashers, show up.

Yesterday, O'Neal wound up fouling out . . . in 30 minutes.

Nevertheless, the game see-sawed. Going into the closing seconds, the Pacers led 89-87, but things were about to change fast.

With 13.3 left, Shaw made his three-pointer and the Magic led 90-89.

The play had Hardaway working off a pick-and-roll, but the Pacers stymied it. Hardaway backed off and threw the ball to Shaw, the No. 5 option who had made one shot all game.

"It just went down," Shaw said, "but it's no big deal now."

Thirteen-point-three? Against a team with Reggie Miller? A lifetime.

Sure enough, Miller took the pass behind the arc, turned around, kicked back and let fly and the Pacers led 92-90 with 5.2 seconds left.

"Actually, we were trying to get a triangle [low-post play] for Rik," Miller said. "I said [the heck with] it."

Five-point-two? Getting tense, but there's still time.

Hardaway was supposed to go to the basket, but he had his own ideas, too.

"In my head, I wanted to go for the win," he said, "just go for the knockout punch."

The Pacers had 6-10 Derrick McKey on 6-7 Hardaway, but Hardaway came off a screen and 6-3 Haywoode Workman had to switch on him. Hardaway dribbled twice to his left, then leaped over the shorter defender and, without even squaring his shoulders, made the three-pointer that put the Magic up 93-92 with 1.3 left.

One-point-three?

That isn't very much time at all.

Pacers coach Larry Brown said venerable Vern Fleming told Smits to ball-fake Rollins. Smits said he didn't remember Fleming saying anything, but he knew that much.

"One-point-three, enough time to at least get a little fake in there and see what he [Rollins] would do," Smits said. "When I saw him go a little bit, I just stepped through and let it go."

Bingo!

O'Neal cleared out fast, answering no questions and growling, "No autographs, get out of the way!" at a kid, whom he must have presumed to be from Indiana.

It was a great day to be a Pacer, a fine day to be a basketball fan, but no day to be O'Neal.

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