CHICAGO -- Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller was spared the wrath of NBA officials, one day after his game-winning shot evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games. But teammate Jalen Rose did not fare as well and neither did, to a lesser extent, Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson.
Rose will miss tonight's Game 5, having been suspended yesterday for one game for leaving the bench during an altercation between Miller and Bulls guard Ron Harper in the final seconds of Indiana's 96-94 win on Monday.
The league also fined Jackson $10,000 for critical comments about the officiating during his team's Game 4 loss, at one point saying the ending "felt like it was Munich '72 revisited."
Harper was fined $3,500 for pulling Miller down onto the Chicago bench with 4.7 seconds remaining, and Miller was fined $2,500. But Miller's fine was for a retaliatory shove, and not the punch that the Chicago bench alleged he threw -- a move that would have resulted in a one-game suspension.
"I'm not dumb enough to throw a punch during a playoff game," said Miller, whose three-point shot with less than a second left turned a one-point deficit into a two-point Indiana lead. "I was trying to get out of the ruckus so I wouldn't get hit."
Exactly four seconds later, Miller would get open -- after shoving Michael Jordan -- to hit a wide-open three-point attempt. After Jordan's shot at the buzzer rimmed out, the Pacers celebrated ** the win that evened the series, and the defending NBA champion Bulls were left to whine and appear vulnerable for the first time in years.
Chicago, the dominant team of the decade with five titles in the 1990s, is used to romping through the playoffs. In fact, the last time the Bulls lost two games in the conference finals was in 1993, when Chicago dropped the first two games to the New York Knicks, before winning the next four.
Now, the Bulls find themselves in a difficult, hard-fought series. Neither Jordan nor Scottie Pippen -- whose two missed free throws with 4.7 seconds left were costly -- spoke to the media after yesterday's practice. But Jordan looked like a beaten man after Monday's loss, sporting stitches above his right eye and speaking in low, subdued tones.
Even his play on the court was out of character: six turnovers, including one in the fourth quarter when he appeared indecisive on a bad pass to Luc Longley. More and more, Jordan abandoned the triangle offense in attempts to go one-on-one, which did not help in a game in which he missed eight of 13 shots in the second half, as Chicago blew a fourth-quarter lead for the second game in a row.
"We'll try to remedy that -- there were some miscommunication and some things where guys tried to take it upon themselves a little bit," Jackson said of the fourth-quarter collapse. "I think Mike [getting out of the offense] wanted to take advantage of [Derrick] McKey. He thought he had the ability. That was his response, and I thought he had some great looks and good shots."
Jordan was perhaps bothered by the size of the 6-foot-9 McKey. And by the aggressiveness of the 6-8 Rose, who doesn't buy into the "don't bang Jordan or you'll make him mad" defensive philosophy. When Jordan shoved, Rose shoved back. An elbow from Jordan to Rose resulted in a hard forearm in return.
Rose's suspension will be a big loss to the Pacers, who are getting little production from forward Chris Mullin (1-for-10 from the field on Monday). The NBA didn't buy into the Indiana argument that Rose was merely checking into the game during the time of the altercation, which is the reason he came off the bench. In fact, Rose never re-entered the game.
Maybe the Bulls, with Rose suspended, feel as if they finally got a break. Jackson was less critical of the officials yesterday, less than 24 hours after he said it felt as if the Bulls were playing against "an eight-man defense."
Asked about that yesterday, he replied, "Hey, I think they have three great bench players."
Miller appeared stunned by all the complaining coming from Jackson and Jordan.
"Everyone's talking about holding, hitting, pushing," Miller said. "Them, of all people, shouldn't talk about holding, hitting, pushing. Chicago gets away with that more than anybody. They get the benefit of every call."
But that has not happened in the past two games, which !B probably led to Jordan's "us against the world" comment after Game 4. But even as Jordan appeared subdued Monday, there was still a remark that appeared to say the Bulls won't give up their title meekly.
"You still have to come through Chicago," Jordan said. "Utah, Indiana, they still have to come through Chicago. I don't care what happened [Monday] or what happened in the other series."
After a split of the first four games, the series between the Bulls and Pacers has become a best-of-three affair. The remaining games:
Date .. .. .Site .. .. ..Time
Today .. ...Chicago ...9 p.m.
Friday .. ..Indiana ...9 p.m.
Sunday* . ..Chicago ... ..TBA
TV: All games chs. 11, 4
Pub Date: 5/27/98