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Pacers avoid collapse, go up 2-1 on Pistons

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Reggie Miller is still pushing opponents
around.

With a sellout crowd chanting his name, the 39-year-old
delivered another clutch playoff moment Friday night. He drew two
fouls, made four free throws and hit a key jumper in the final 81
seconds to rally the Indiana Pacers past Detroit 79-74 in Game 3 of
the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Pacers now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is
Sunday at Indianapolis.

It was an atypical night for Miller until the end.

He shot just 3-of-11 from the field, including a dismal 0-of-7
from 3-point range, and even missed a free throw in the fourth
quarter. But when the Pacers needed him most, the five-time
All-Star who is retiring after the season looked like anything but
a fading star.

With the Pacers trailing 72-71 and commissioner David Stern
watching from near midcourt, Miller drew the sixth foul on Richard
Hamilton with 1:21 left and sank two free throws to wipe out
Detroit's 72-71 lead. On the Pacers' next possession, Miller drew a
foul on Lindsey Hunter, then hit two more free throws to make it
75-72.

And when Detroit needed a stop to have a chance at a potentially
tying 3-pointer, Hunter fell down -- or perhaps was pushed -- and
Miller hit a 21-foot jumper to make it 79-74.

"Lindsey, who is an unbelievable defender, was crowding me, so
I tried to use my body against him and tried to create some space,
which I did," Miller said of his shot that sealed the victory.

Miller led the Pacers with 17 points, Jamaal Tinsley added 16
and Jeff Foster had 12 rebounds.

Detroit, the defending NBA champion, was upset with the calls
and the non-calls.

"It was an unbelievable shot he hit," coach Larry Brown said.
"But how could he get so open? ... It's a shame that in the final
situation they leave it up to other people to decide the game."

Brown seemed to infer that Miller was using his trademark
push-off to draw fouls and get free, and Hunter declined to comment
for fear of a fine.

Miller conceded there was pushing and shoving by both teams, but
acknowledged it was part of the tiresome complaints he hears every
year come playoff time.

"It's common," Miller said. "It's always something I'm
doing."

Detroit, which was led by Chauncey Billups with 23 points,
didn't challenge until late. The Pacers neutralized defensive
player of the year Ben Wallace inside and took advantage of Richard
Hamilton's sore right calf to beat the Pistons for the second
straight time.

Perhaps most important for the Pacers was that they actually won
in their own building, where they had lost four of their last five
postseason games -- including two straight to Detroit in last year's
Eastern Conference finals.

After spending more than a week on the road with trips to Boston
and Detroit, the Pacers shot 36.1 percent from the field. Detroit
had just a 42-40 rebounding advantage and Wallace, who controlled
Game 1, finished with seven points and 14 rebounds.

The win changed the dynamic of a series in which the road team
had won five of the previous six meetings this season -- something
the Pistons intend to change back Sunday.

"We're definitely going back to Detroit with this thing 2-2, no
question about it," said Detroit's Rasheed Wallace, who missed two
key 3-pointers in the last minute.

Brown used only seven players, and Hamilton, Detroit's leading
scorer, had a miserable start. He was 1-of-7 from the field with
three turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 16 points
before fouling out with 1:21 left.

Although the Pistons trailed by double digits for most of the
second and third quarters, Detroit's late push was nearly enough to
win it.

Indiana led 58-45 entering the fourth quarter, but the Pistons
quickly cut the margin to 10. After the Pacers rebuilt a 67-55
lead, Detroit got back-to-back three-point plays from Hamilton and
Billups, then used a 9-2 run to take a 72-71 lead on Billups' free
throws with 2:09 left.

Then it was Miller time.

He hit all four free throws, then the 21-footer with 10.7
seconds left to seal the win.

"I can't really be surprised because I've seen him do it so
many times," Pacers All-Star Jermaine O'Neal said. "I've been
watching him do it all my life. That's what makes him a crunch time
player."

Game notes
Foster recorded his fourth straight game with double-digits
in rebounds. ... It was the Pacers' first home win over the Pistons
this season. ... After scoring 21 points in Game 1, Ben Wallace has
a total of 10 points in the last two games. ... The Pistons were
just 3-of-16 from 3-point range. ... Indiana came into the game
with the best defense in the playoffs, allowing a league-low 88.1
points per game.