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Pacers Comeback, Beat Wizards

INDIANAPOLIS -- Once again, the Indiana Pacers needed a second-half comeback to secure a win. And once again, All-Stars Reggie Miller and Rik Smits needed plenty of help from their teammates and they got it.

This was one victory Larry Bird, who will coach the East in the Feb. 8 All-Star Game, would just as soon forget.

"You've got to take it and move on," Bird said after an 85-84 victory over the Washington Wizards Tuesday night. "We didn't play that well. At times we played good defense, but our offense never really got going."

Miller, selected earlier in the day for his fourth All-Star appearance, scored 20 points, including a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left as the Pacers won their third straight come-from-behind game. Smits, named an All-Star for the first time, added 14 points but spent much of the second half on the bench with a jammed finger.

"I went to the pick-and-roll and I was not looking for a 3-point shot only," Miller said. "But I took the shot, and we won.''

The Pacers, who have the best record in the East at 29-12, have won 12 of their past 15 games and 27 of their past 34.

"Early in the year, when we were 2-5, we had lost a lot of these (close) games," Miller said. "I am glad we're winning these games, but for us to be an elite team, a top-notch team, we have to play much better at home."

Washington, led by Juwan Howard with 25 points, went ahead by eight in the third quarter before Indiana pulled to a 67-67 tie at the end of the period. Reserves scored 11 of the Pacers' first 13 points of the fourth quarter, including five by Jalen Rose and four straight free throws by Antonio Davis as Indiana went ahead 80-76 with four minutes left.

Baskets by Chris Webber and Rod Strickland tied the game again, and the final tie came with 45 seconds left on two free throws by Howard.

After Miller's 3-pointer, Webber missed a shot, but Calbert Cheaney got the rebound and scored to pull Washington within one. Miller then missed another 3-pointer, but Mark Jackson stripped the ball from Strickland as the Wizards tried to set up for a winning basket in the final seconds.

Strickland thought he had been fouled.

"I got hit across the left arm on the last play and didn't get the call," he said. "But they made the plays they needed to win."

The pacers' bench outscored Washington's 26-12.

"I thought it was a war," Wizards coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "Our guys played extremely well. ... We made critical mistakes and didn't show patience.

"Reggie made the big 3, just like great players do," Bickerstaff said.

Cheaney added 20 points and Webber had 18 points and 11 rebounds.

The Pacers, who had to overcome double-digit deficits to win their past two games, couldn't hold a big early lead of their own this time.

Indiana built an 11-point lead earlin the second quarter before the Wizards rallied against Indiana's reserves. Even with Webber on the bench with three fouls midway through the period and Cheaney joining him three minutes later, Washington continued closing the gap.

A basket by Tracy Murray and two free throws by Chris Whitney brought the Wizards within two, and a minute later two free throws by Murray and a rebound basket by Darvin Ham tied it at 42-42.

Two straight Indiana turnovers set up baskets by Murray and Howard as Washington took a 46-43 lead, but two free throws apiece by Miller and Smits in the final seconds of the half put the Pacers back on top 47-46. Washington outscored Indiana 17-8 at the start of the second half, and the Pacers didn't lead again until a basket by Davis early in the fourth quarter.


  • Indiana coach Larry Bird received a huge ovation from the home crowd of 15,316 in the Pacers' first game since he was named to coach the East in the Feb. 8 All-Star game.
  • The Wizards didn't have any players named All-Stars despite Strickland leading the league in assists and Webber ninth in scoring.
  • Webber had a streak of 14 straight games with at least 20 points snapped.
  • Strickland, averaging 10.5 assists a game, had 10 against the Pacers. 995.
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