Pacers' backup guard doesn't back down vs. Jordan, BullsLooking almost Jordanesque, Travis Best ducked around Steve Kerr and took off, hesitating in the air for just a second before banking the one-handed layup off the glass.
Guess Reggie Miller isn't the only one who can come through with the clutch shots for the Indiana Pacers."I felt confident," Best said. "I always feel confident, no matter who's guarding me, as long as I have the space to create something."
Create he did. Best, a third-year player, looked like a seasoned veteran Friday, making slick passes and tricky baskets down the stretch to seal Indiana's 92-89 victory.
Indiana's victory ties the Eastern Conference finals at three games apiece. Game 7 is Sunday at the United Center.
Best's line wasn't great, just six points on 2-of-6 shooting, but what a six points they were. His acrobatic layup gave Indiana an 89-87 lead over the Chicago Bulls with 33 seconds left.
Layups haven't exactly been Best's shot all series. But as he flew over Kerr, the ball in his left hand, he wasn't looking around for someone to bail him out.
Nope, this shot was all his.
"I knew a shot had to go up. We couldn't afford any passes at that point," he said. "The shot clock was running down and I knew I had to beat Steve and get a shot up."
After Michael Jordan tied the game with two free throws, Best took the ball down the floor. As Best drove the lane, Jordan reached in and tried to steal the ball, but was whistled for a foul instead.
"We were looking for Reggie, but he wasn't open," Indiana coach Larry Bird said. "Travis took it upon himself to penetrate, which we've been telling him to do because when he penetrates, good things happen."
Best stepped to the free throw line with 8.5 seconds left, looking so calm he may as well have been taking a few shots at the end of practice. He nailed both free throws to seal the victory.
Jordan tripped over Derrick McKey's feet at the other end of the court and McKey scooped up the ball. Scottie Pippen fouled him with four-tenths of a second left, and McKey made one free throw for the final 92-89 margin.
"He's been consistent all year long," Chris Mullin said of Best. "That's the beautiful thing about this team. On different nights, it's different people."
With Miller struggling - he was a dismal 2-of-13 from the floor and finished with eight points - the Pacers needed someone to take over. Rik Smits did his part with 25 points, and Dale Davis added a career playoff-high 19 points.
But the Pacers still found themselves down 69-66 with almost three minutes left in the third quarter. Enter Best.
He came flying down the floor, a bunch of Chicago Bulls on his heels. Instead of chancing a layup or jumper, he threw a no-look pass behind his back to Davis, who dunked. That ignited a 6-0 run that put the Pacers up 70-69, and the teams exchanged leads the rest of the game.
"I can't find the words," Best said of taking the five-time NBA champions to Game 7. "We're definitely going to go in and go after this game. We haven't fought all year long just to give this game up."