The final buzzer had sounded. Jordan’s Bulls have made it to their sixth NBA finals. The Pacers pushed the Bulls to the limits, coming close to toppling the Chicago dynasty and reaching a cross-conference series, but Bulls’ championship DNA was too much to handle. Jordan himself has said that other than Bad Boy Pistons, Reggie Miller’s Pacers were the team that gave the Bulls the toughest time in the East. It wasn’t enough to ruin the last dance tough.
There wasn’t anything spectacular about the Pacers when looking at them on paper. The team didn’t have a player averaging over 20 a game, and only had three guys scoring in double digits, yet they were top 5 in offensive rating. None of the Pacers received All-Defensive honors, but they were still a top 5 defense in the league. They were incredibly balanced, and Larry Bird was doing a great job as a first-year NBA coach.
When the game was on the line, their balanced offensive system became Reggie Miller’s solo act. He was the team’s closer; their go-to guy. Miller even came big vs. the Bulls, shoving MJ and hitting a historic game-winning three to tie the series at two apiece. His slim frame made him get away with a lot of things on both ends of the floor, and Jordan despised it.
“I don’t dislike anybody in the league, but playing Reggie Miller drives me nuts. It’s like chicken-fighting with a woman. His game is all this flopping-type thing. He weighs only 185 pounds, so you have to be careful, don’t touch him, or it’s a foul. On offense, I use all my 215 pounds and just move him out. But he has his hands on you all the time, like a woman holding your waist. I just want to beat his hands off because it’s illegal. It irritates me.”Michael Jordan, ESPN
It seems like Reggie Miller became the synonym for what is known as the “Shaq effect.” Well, “reverse Shaq effect” I should say. It’s like this: refs try to set the tone for the game. They try to establish a physicality norm they will allow. It’s usually applied to all players on the floor, but you always have anomalies.
They may come in the form of 7-1, 325 pounds Shaquille O’Neal, or 6-7, 185 pounds Reggie Miller. Either way, the same criterium can’t be applied to them. What would knock a regular player down, doesn’t move Diesel. The same logic applies to Miller. His frame allows him to oversell the smallest amount of contact while being extra physical on the other side of the floor without refs noticing it.
That’s what Jordan referred to when describing Miller’s game as flopping-type. Reggie was smart, using his thinness to his advantage. And that can be extremely annoying because you can’t do what he is doing to you on the defensive end of the floor. It’s almost a disadvantage of sorts, but you just have to adjust to it.
And Michael did adjust, capping Indiana’s run at the Eastern Conference Finals, forcing the skinny irritating Uncle Reg to watch the NBA finals from the comfort of his couch.