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Reggie Miller Is Not a HOF'er, Part 2: The Clutch Myth

For some reason, quite a few sites and message boards this week have linked the Reggie Miller article I wrote a month ago, and plenty of Pacer fans went on “He’s the best clutch player ever so he must be in the Hall” rants. This has me thinking about Reggie’s most famous playoff moments and if they were representative of his overall playoff/clutch performance. Let’s take a look.



Miller’s first foray into the national consciousness due to his clutch playoff performances was on June 1, 1994, when he blew up for 25 points in the 4th quarter of Game 5 against the favored Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The Pacers won 93-86, taking a 3-2 lead over New York in the Eastern Conference Finals. From there, the Knicks won two close ones to advance to the Finals. It’s funny the final two games were close because these are supposedly the games Miller’s legacy is all about. Over that duo of contests, Reggie scored 52 points, but he shot only 39% (15 for 38), and had only 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 turnovers. The rest of the team shot 48% in those two games (49 for 102). Great 4th quarter in MSG: all for naught.



The Pacers returned to the Conference Finals the next year (see also: the two years Jordan was gone). To do so, Reggie had his most famous clutch moment ever: scoring 8 points in 9 seconds against the Knicks in Game 1 of the Conference Semifinals. The Pacers won a tight 7-game series, including a 97-95 Game Seven in which Reggie scored 29 points on 10-for-18 shooting. More important to that win however was that the Knicks had 15 turnovers to the Pacers’ 6; Reggie had none of his teams 6 steals, so don’t look at him as helping with that. Also, the Knicks’ guards lit it up that game, shooting 52% (14 for 27), so it’s really tough to say Reggie’s defense had anything to do with that win. Then they faced Orlando. Reggie went big in Game 6 to keep the Pacers alive, scoring 36 on only 19 shots, including 6-for-10 from deep. Game 7 is where true clutch performers come out, and Reggie bombed terribly, scoring only 12 points on 13 shots with 0 assists. The Magic won 105-81 and went on to get swept in the Finals.



Their next trip to the Conference Finals was in 1998 against the Bulls. Games 6 and 7 were tight and for a trip to the Finals, so it was Reggie time, right? Wrong. The Pacers eeked out Game 6 92-89, but it had just about nothing to do with Miller. He scored only 8 points on horrid 2-for-13 shooting with 0 assists, while three other starters contributed more points and all on less shots (Smits: 25 points on 12 shots, Davis: 19 points on 9 shots, Jackson: 13 points on 10 shots). Miller did considerably better in Game 7, scoring 22 points on 13 shots, but he also had 0 rebounds (the dude was 6-feet-7) and the loss. The Pacers were actually winning in the 4th quarter of this one, so you’d think Miller could have had a moment, but that moment only took place in Game 4 when he hit the turnaround 3 with 0.4 seconds left to win it. Yet again, his most lasting moment from the playoffs was early in the series before he wilted under the brighter lights of a more meaningful game.



They returned to the Conference Finals in the Jordan-less, lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. The Pacers were a favorite and finished tied with the best record in the East, 33-17. They easily rolled through the #7 Bucks and #6 Sixers before facing the #8 Knicks in the Conference Finals. Despite being favored, the Pacers fell 4-2 to New York, whose 4 wins came by a total of 19 points. You’d think a player of legendary clutch ability like Reggie could have made a difference in a tight series against an inferior opponent, but he didn’t. In fact, Miller scored only 8 points on 3-for-18 shooting in the final game. NY got smashed in the Finals by San Antonio.



The Pacers finally broke through to the Finals in 2000, falling to the Lakers. Reggie had a good playoffs from a scoring perspective, averaging 24 ppg, but he also shot an average 45% for the post-season (plus the requisite super low assist and rebound numbers) and he had that 1-for-16 stinker in Game 1 of the Finals to got the ball rolling for LA. These playoffs were as good as it got for Miller.



Reggie had some amazing moments in Game 5 of 2002’s Round 1 match-up against the Nets. He banked in a 35-foot shot at the buzzer to send the game to overtime (banked = luck), then had a big dunk over 3 Nets at the end of the first OT to force the second extra period. At this point the Pacers folded and lost 120-109, losing the series. There’s no doubt these are two memorable playoff moments, but we’re talking about a first-round game, that Reggie’s team lost, in a series Reggie’s team lost.



The Pacers made the Conference Finals again in 2004, but Reggie was a 10 ppg secondary piece behind Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, and Al Harrington at that point. His playoff averages were 10 ppg on 40% shooting.



Wondering where the rest of his playoffs are? Well Indy either didn’t make the playoffs or were bounced in the first round in his first six seasons. They had five more of those years before that 2004 season. That’s a lot of first round exits for someone who is supposedly the epitome of clutch. And as Bill Simmons points out, the Pacers were 9-15 in elimination games during his career, plus they were only 3-5 in deciding Game 5’s and 7’s. His most famous clutch moments were great and unforgettable, but as you look at the bigger picture, you have to see that they were few and far between considering all the chances he had, let alone they often were early in a series and inconsequential. Sorry Indy fans, but the clutch myth doesn’t stand up.

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    Reggie Miller Is Not a HOF'er, Part 2: The Clutch Myth - Behind the Basket - The Antidote for Conventional Wisdom

Reader Comments (14)

Maybe it would be better if you used EFG%, since he took so many threes.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin

Who ever wrote this is an idiot. Truth be told.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Good use of factual evidence to back up your side. Unfortunately, assuming you think Reggie Miller is a HOFer and an amazing clutch performer, there isn't a lot of factual evidence at your disposal.

April 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

I didn’t think I needed to justify my statement. If you nitpick someone enough you can make anyone look like a flop or a no talent loser. Your rhetoric is enough to make me gag. Can we say ‘biased’? In your article, you do praise Reggie for some amazing comeback performances and mind blowing game winners, but you immediately digress and talk about how his team couldn’t win the NBA finals or the rest of a series, like it’s an easy thing to do. I can’t refute your ‘evidence’, because it’s all true, I can admit that, but you seem to think that being a clutch player, one must be infallible. His credibility for being a clutch performer and worthy Hall of famer is backed up by every player he competed against, every coach that coached him and every commentator and fan that watched him play, not an obtuse person trying to justify his stance by compiling numbers, and statistics, and diddly-doo bullshit. You are the minority.

April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

If I'm in the minority, then why was he not even a finalist for Hall of Fame voting? It sounds like biased Pacers fans are the minority.

April 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

So, you’re saying that the Hall of Fame induction process involves the majority of the people. HA! I’m not demeaning the Hall of Fame, but let’s be honest about the process, it’s a bit ludicrous and obviously the majority can’t be a panel of judges. And to my second point, of course you are part of the minority! Let me be clear: You are DEFENDING what everyone else DISAGREES with. Why do you think there is a controversy? I’ll tell you why, because 80 percent of the sports analysts can’t believe he wasn’t a finalist, not to mention almost everything I have read on the fiasco favors Reggie to be a Hall of Famer. Why would you write this article if you are the majority?! You mention it yourself in the article that the controversy, regarding Reggie not becoming a finalist, was ubiquitous, so obviously you are the minority. If no one cared that Reggie didn’t get into the HOF, why write a detailed article showcasing Reggie’s faults? Inevitably Reggie will become a Hall of Famer; guaranteed. And when this happens I guess my point will be made.

April 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

You're obviously biased because there is NOTHING about Miller's career that says Hall of Famer. His stats aren't that good (career 18 ppg, almost as high as Sprewell, Rice, Brand, Daugherty, Mashburn, Marbury, etc.). His post season stats and team accomplishments weren't that good. His yearly top-10 stats, All-Star game selections, All-NBA team selections, and MVP voting are all way underwhelming. It's literally just a few moments early in a few playoff series that have anyone talking about his inclusion. That's nuts. The next thing biased Indy fans want to point to is his high amount of career 3 pointers. Sounds like a role player to me - if he's amazing at this one thing but was still only a top-10 scorer once and never got more MVP consideration than his teammates, that's a role player. Not a Hall of Famer. Thankfully HOF voters, unlike the majority of ESPN-ified fans, don't watch players' top-10 highlight reels while deciding how to vote; they actually consider the worthiness of an entire career. Can't pass, can't rebound, can't defend shooting guards who didn't average a bunch of points and weren't considered that great when they played don't qualify for the Hall. See also: not a finalist.

April 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

Reggie Miller's stats declined in his last few years as he became a roll player. Reggie Miller is simply one of the best clutch shooters ever, there are youtube videos of him hitting all sorts of crazy buzzer beaters. Reggie Miller will make it into the hall of game and is probably the best pure shooter to ever play, and I live in Detroit. Without Reggie, the Pacers would have been a lottery team most years...unless you think Rik Smits and Dale Davis would have won just as much without Reggie.

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTed

Reggie more or less played 14 seasons of "decent" ball, from 88-89 to 01-02. The Pacers either didn't make the playoffs or lost in the first-round in 9 of those. Think about that as you think about someone being HOF-worthy, especially in a really diluted league in the late-90's when he wasn't getting any MVP consideration at all. A few great moments on youtube don't change an entire career.

May 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

this article has some points, but come on. and there is one major statistic you are missing. look at the difference between points averaged during the regular season and the playoffs. in other words, who steps up their game the most when it comes to scoring in the playoffs. i believe that reggie miller was second only to michael jordan. he easily could have averaged 25 a game for his career if he wanted to. the pacers were a balanced team offensively. he deserves the hof, which i believe he has gotten at this point, on the playoffs alone.

(role player? the guy was the most dangerous three point shooter of his era hands down, and arguably the greatest of all time; he wasn't a spot up open three point shooter; he took them curling off of screens with hands in his face, fading away, and with the clock winding down, and he still made a higher percentage than most role players who only take them when wide open.)

((i would love to see his playoff stats compared to other hall of famers!

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercj

Reggie shot more in the playoffs, so of course he scored more. But his FG%, 3FG%, eFG%, and TrueShooting% all dropped from his regular season numbers. And again his teams had a losing record during his career in Game 5/7's, plus there are FAR more instances of him and his teams falling apart when it was time to get it done or go home than producing a crazy highlight that actually closed things out for the opponent.

And the myth carries on...

May 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

I live in Indy, where I am in the miniscule minority of basketball fans who agree with you about Reggie Miller. RM scored an astounding amount of his baskets off of assists; probably among the highest percentage of assisted baskets in league history. In his last 5 years, when the stats became available, his percentage of assisted baskets made was well over 80%. Having seen many Pacer games over his entire career, I expect that his career assisted basket percentage was in that same category.
In my opinion, as a "2" guard, a GREAT player in the modern NBA game must be able to generate his own shot; Reggie Miller never developed that skill over his 18 year career. In fact, his ball-handling was sub-par. In addition, again, from the available stats, his "clutch" shooting percentage (in the last 3 minutes of games) was 35.8%. Not HOF-worthy.
On the other hand, he was a good citizen, with some outstanding highlights (especially in NYC), with a LONG career. I guess he deserves HOF recognition for that. But, NBA Superstar? NO WAY. Good to Great player - Yes. Definitley NOT a popular opinion in these parts...
What the heck...they let Rodman in. IMO: the Basketball HOF is not a very exclusive club.

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim Kavanaugh

The HOF certainly is not an exclusive club, especially for players from the 50's, 60's, and early 70's (has anyone ever looked at the stats of guys like Bill Bradley, Al Cervi, or K.C. Jones?).

May 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

Oh btw everyone


January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKacey

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