The third quarter has been costly thus far in Indiana's bid to spoil Chicago's bid for a sixth NBA championship in eight years.
Chicago trailed at halftime of both games at the United Center, by three points in Game 1 and by seven in Game 2. Each time they took the lead in the third quarter by outscoring the Pacers by 10 and 11 points, respectively."It seems like their intensity picks up," Indiana coach Larry Bird said Friday after the Pacers finished practicing for Saturday's Game 3 in the Eastern Conference finals.
"It seems like we were just sort of out there for a while. It took us longer to get going. We used to take pride in the third quarter, come out and get on people. For some reason, Chicago is beating us to the punch."
Reggie Miller said the big change in the second half was Chicago "turning up" its defense.
"They've done a great job of that," he said.
RODMAN STARTING: Assuming he shows up on time, Dennis Rodman apparently will start Saturday's game.
Chicago coach Phil Jackson said Friday he'll start Rodman in place of Toni Kukoc at forward.
Rodman came off the bench in the first two games after showing up late at the United Center.
As each game began, he headed to the locker room to keep loose and warm.
Jackson said then that he was not starting Rodman because the team had a better matchup against Indiana with Kukoc starting.
Rodman, who wasn't even on the bench when Jackson wanted to put him into the game last Tuesday, played only 24 minutes and had six rebounds in Game 2. With the NBA's leading rebounder missing half the game, Indiana had a 46-38 advantage off the boards.
HISTORY LESSON: Down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals is nothing new to the Indiana Pacers. They've lost the first two games of the conference finals the only times they've reached that deep into the playoffs. Each time, Indiana won Game 3 before losing the series in seven games.
However, this is the first time the Pacers are playing the Chicago Bulls in a playoff series. Indiana lost the first two games to the New York Knicks in the 1994 conference finals, won Games 3 and 4 at home and gained an edge by winning Game 5 at New York. The Knicks won Game 6 at Indiana 98-91 and the final game at New York 94-90.
In 1995, Indiana lost the first two games at Orlando and evened the series with victories at home. Orlando advanced by winning Games 5 and 7.
MILLER TIME: Reggie Miller, whose playoff heroics have sparked the Indiana Pacers in previous years, believes the time has arrived for him to assert more leadership.
"I'm the one who has to take a couple of steps forward. I've been the leader of this team the last several years," Miller said. "Definitely they're (his teammates) going for me to come in here and have a big game, whether it be offensively, or defensively. . . . We've got to get a spark for tomorrow (Saturday)."