One night after coach Larry Bird criticized his starters' effort, the Indiana Pacers responded with a hard-fought win over one of the NBA's best teams.
"There's no secret in this game: If you play hard and play with some desire, you're going to win a lot of games," Bird said after Monday night's 93-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Still, Bird didn't sound satisfied.
Asked if his players were listening when he told them he'd start younger players if the veterans didn't improve after Sunday's 102-91 loss to Seattle, Bird said: "They better be, because I've had enough of it. I really have. Guys get paid a lot of money to play hard, and they should come out here and respect the game, and go after it like they want to win."
"We stayed aggressive," Rose said. "Anytime you play against a team like Portland, they are going to make runs. You can't get discouraged."
Scottie Pippen had a chance to tie in the frantic final seconds, but his jumper went off the back of the rim with about 8 seconds left. The Blazers had one more chance, but Pippen's inbounds pass toward Steve Smith was knocked away and picked up by Indiana's Reggie Miller.
Miller scored 15 points but shot just 2-of-11 from the field. The previous night, he was 1-of-9 with a season-low six points.
"I'm still the go-to guy on this team," Miller said. "I dn't care if I go 0-for-20. The ball better be in my hands at the end of the game. If the ball is not going to be in my hand, I shouldn't be around here."
Miller missed seven of his first eight shots and seemed to get into a shooting match with Rose early on. But Miller hit one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer after he stole a pass by Brian Grant, that put the Pacers ahead 84-79 with 6:16 to go.
"He's our bread and butter," Bird said of Miller, who has made just 30 percent of his shots in the last 10 games. "He hasn't been shooting the ball well at all ... What it comes down to, no matter how many shots he misses in a row or what his shooting percentage is, if the game is close he's going to get the ball."
Rasheed Wallace had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Portland.
Pippen, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, hit a 3-pointer to bring the Blazers within 90-89 with 42.7 seconds left. Indiana's Travis Best was fouled and made both free throws with 19.3 seconds left for a 92-89 lead.
Damon Stoudamire hit a short baseline jumper to make it 92-91 with 14.7 seconds left. Rose was fouled immediately, but made just one of two at the line for a 93-91 lead.
Pippen inbounded the ball and got it back, but couldn't drive into the lane and his fallaway jumper wasn't close.
"We've been sort of stumbling for the last couple of weeks, and it's something we felt was going to catch up on us," Pippen said. "We're not getting out and running and scoring right now."
The Blazers fell to 13-3 overall and 5-1 at home. Still fatigued from a recent six-game road trip, the Blazers now face an eight-game stretch against teams with winning records.
"We haven't been together, and our schedule hasn't helped us," Smith said. "We've done a pretty good job. We're happy with what our record is, because it could have been worse."
Trailing 90-84 with 3:48 left, the Blazers couldn't score on three straight possessions. Pippen's two free throws pulled Portland within 90-86 with 1:13 to go.
Indiana didn't make a field goal in the last 3:48, but they held on.
Both teams struggled from the perimeter. Portland shot 40 percent, while Indiana shot 38 percent after shooting a season-low 35 percent in Seattle.
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