The longer the Cleveland Cavaliers stuck around against the Indiana Pacers, the more dangerous they became.
Larry Bird's Pacers saw a chance to knock these pesky kids out of the playoffs and took it."Everybody says they have a young team, which they do," Bird said after the Pacers advanced to the second round with an 80-74 victory Thursday night. "But they are coming on strong. They have a great future here."
Despite having three rookies in the starting lineup, the Cavs cut a 15-point deficit to 75-73 with 2:15 left. But Reggie Miller corralled two crucial rebounds in the final half-minute to send the Pacers into the second round against either New York or Miami.
"You look at the stat sheet and it won't be pretty," said Jalen Rose, who had four points. "But we're not trying to look cute. That's why we all have bald heads."
The Pacers, who rebounded from a 39-win season to go 58-24 in Bird's first year as coach, shaved their heads as a symbol of team unity before the series. They get to rest - and grow some hair back, if they wish - while the Knicks and Heat finish their ugly series Sunday.
"We've seen both teams and we've played well against both teams," Antonio Davis said. "The more time for us to recuperate, to watch them play and for us to practice, the better."
Miller led the Pacers with 19 points, and Rik Smits had 17. Chris Mullin, Bird's former Olympic teammate, scored 12.
The Pacers didn't come up with a way to stop Cavs forward Shawn Kemp, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds and came close to single-handedly forcing a fifth game.
"I have somewhat of a newfound respect for Shawn Kemp," Miller said. "I saw him out west for so many years, and he was on a great team out there in Seattle. He came here and really put this young team on his back.
"His will almost won this game for them."
Wesley Person, who averaged only 5.7 points in the first three games, scored 15 for the Cavs and was 4-for-8 on 3-point attempts. Zydrunas Ilgauskas fouled out with 15 points.
"The eyes of America saw it," Kemp said. "We've got a tough, young team."
Mark Jackson and Travis Best held Cavs point guard Brevin Knight scoreless with only four shots from the field. The Pacers' reserves scored 26 points, while rookie Derek Anderson, with 18, was Cleveland's only reserve to score.
"I thought the guys came in and were focused and did what they had to do to keep our lead," Bird said.
"They wouldn't quit," Jackson said. "It was like trying to put your kids to sleep, and they want to play one more Nintendo game."