It wouldn't have seemed right, especially after the 39-year-old
sharpshooter made a teary-eyed retreat to the bench in the final
seconds Thursday night.
"This is a sad day, really," Detroit's Chauncey Billups said
after Detroit's 88-79 victory sent the Pistons back to the Eastern
Conference finals and ensured that Miller's career would end
without a championship.
Richard Hamilton scored 28 points and Billups added 23 as
Detroit won the best-of-seven series 4-2. The Pistons will open the
conference finals on Monday at Miami.
It was the final game for Miller, the NBA's 12th-leading career
scorer who is retiring after 18 years in the league. He broke out
of a shooting slump and led Indiana with 27 points, and his final
basket was a 3-pointer with under 2 minutes left to pull Indiana to
Hamilton then hit a basket and Billups added two free throws
with 26 seconds left before Miller missed a 3-pointer and left the
game to a prolonged, standing ovation -- which the Pistons joined in
-- as the crowd chanted "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" with 16 seconds to go.
At the end of the game, the chant changed to "One more year."
"It was definitely very emotional," Hamilton said. "I don't
think I've ever been in a game where a team that's about to move on
and a guy comes out of the game and the other team is cheering.
"For a guy his age, the way he played tonight was
unbelievable," Hamilton said.
As Miller left the court, he embraced players from both teams.
"I told him thanks. Everybody in the NBA should be saying thank
you," Hamilton said.
Miller's 27 points were his most since he had 33 in Game 3 of
the first-round series against Boston.
"It's somewhat bittersweet," Miller said. "I thought we
competed hard tonight. Every time we got a lead, Chauncey and Rip
hit big shots to keep them within distance. That's what
championship teams do."
Jermaine O'Neal, still bothered by a sore shoulder that
sidelined him late in the regular season, added 22 points and 11
rebounds for Indiana.
The Pacers led almost the entire first half and turned back
every Detroit rally until two straight baskets by Hamilton put the
Pistons ahead early in the fourth quarter. The final score marked
the Pistons' biggest lead of the game.
Detroit has won eight consecutive playoff series clinchers over
the last three seasons.
"There were very sentimental emotions from all of us," Indiana
coach Rick Carlisle said. "Tonight, the reality is we were beaten
by a team that's simply better. We played one of our better games
tonight and they were able to win a very tough close-out game on
The Pacers, hoping to extend Miller's career at least one more
game, finally found their shooting touch after being blown out the
past two games.
Miller, one of the NBA's great clutch shooters who had been
stymied into 38 percent shooting through the first five games of
this series, shot 11-of-16 and made four 3-pointers. Reminiscent of
past playoff glory, two of his 3-pointers came in a span of 39
seconds late in the second quarter after nine straight points by
Billups and a free throw by Hamilton brought the Pistons within
"I'm just glad I finally made shots," Miller said. "It's been
a long and tough series for me. Tonight, I wanted to concentrate on
just having fun. ... Tonight, here, with all the fans, I wanted to
absorb that and feel their presence."
Billups dribbled out of bounds for a turnover, and Miller hit
one 3-pointer. Seconds later after Billups missed a 3-point attempt
and with the Indiana crowd already chanting for Miller, he
responded with another 3-pointer to put the Pacers up 46-37.
Detroit got back into the game with two big runs in the third
The first time, after a rebound basket by Ben Wallace cut
Indiana's lead to 48-47, O'Neal, Dale Davis and Miller scored
consecutive baskets, and a free throw by Miller on a technical foul
against Rasheed Wallace made it 55-47.
The Pacers still led 59-51 before a basket and free throw by
Hamilton started an 11-2 run, and two more free throws by Hamilton
gave the Pistons their first lead, 62-61. Indiana regained the lead
at the end of the period on a dunk by Foster and opened the fourth
quarter with a basket by O'Neal and 3-pointer by Anthony Johnson.
The Pistons then scored seven straight points to take the lead
for good, denying the Pacers a chance to give Miller a shot at a
championship. Indiana's only trip to the NBA Finals was in 2000,
when the Pacers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Words can never express how I feel to the city and fans,"
Miller said. "The city has really embraced me and understood we
all had one common goal. Unfortunately, I never delivered on that,
but it was an unbelievable ride."
Miller, whose 25,279 points stand 12th in NBA
regular-season scoring, finished 18th with 2,972 career playoff
points. ... Billups set a Pistons career playoff record for
3-pointers. His 2-for-6 against the Pacers made him 82-for-247 in
48 playoff games with Detroit. Isiah Thomas held the old record of
81-for-234. ... Miller had two assists after totaling just one in
the past four games. ... This is the first time in nine playoff
series the Pacers have lost after leading 2-1. ... Indy 500 drivers
Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Dixon attended the