L.J. saves day
Johnson's four-point play gives N.Y. 2-1 series lead
Posted: Saturday June 05, 1999 11:57 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- A four-point play, an occurrence so rare that New York has had only 16 in 20 years, gave Larry Johnson and the Knicks the unlikeliest of victories in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
In a dramatic and controversial finish, Johnson got a favorable ruling from one of the officials with 5.7 seconds left, converting a 3-pointer and the ensuing foul shot to give New York a stunning 92-91 victory Saturday night.
"I don't know if it was the right call, I've just never seen a call like that," Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh said.
With New York trailing 91-88, Johnson took an inbounds pass with 11.9 seconds left and held the ball outside the 3-point circle. Moving to his left, he was fouled by Antonio Davis and released the shot.
"If I did foul him, I thought I fouled him early," Davis said.
Although it appeared the whistle blew about a half-second before Johnson released, referee Jess Kersey counted it -- looking Indiana coach Larry Bird right in the eye as he thrust both hands in the air to signal a made 3-pointer.
"His arm continued up in a motion to take a shot at the basket, and that is a continuation play," Kersey explained.
Said Johnson: "I was in the act of shooting. He fouled me after I dribbled the ball, so it was a good call."
Indiana's Mark Jackson then had trouble handling the ball before missing a shot at the buzzer, sending the Madison Square Garden crowd into pandemonium.
Game 4 will be Monday night at the Garden.
"This could be a great win and a great show, and we could still lose 4-2," Johnson said.
Until Johnson's four-point play, it appeared that two bursts of offense from Rik Smits and two timely free throws by Jackson would be just enough to give the Pacers the victory.
Smits scored 15 straight points for Indiana during the second quarter and six in a row late in the fourth, and Jackson calmly sank two free throws with 11.9 seconds left for a 91-88 lead.
"We didn't really close them out the way we wanted to," Davis said.
Smits finished with 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, Jackson had 13 and Reggie Miller 12 -- none in the fourth quarter.
Indiana, which led for almost the entire fourth quarter, committed 18 turnovers and was outrebounded 40-31 despite the absence of Ewing.
"Basically they outplayed us for much of the game and we kept hanging and hanging, and we got some big plays," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "And Larry, the first four-point play that I've ever seen decide a game. So it was an unbelievable end."
Johnson banked in a straightaway 3-pointer with 10:50 left in the fourth for a 75-71 lead. Indiana came right back with a 10-0 run on 3-pointers by Travis Best and Sam Perkins and four points from Derrick McKey to make it 81-75 with 8:10 left.
Smith checked back in two minutes later with the Pacers ahead by five and scored Indiana's next six points, giving Indiana an eight-point lead heading into the final three minutes.
Sprewell scored off an inbounds pass to pull the Knicks within 89-86 with 1:33 left, and Miller missed at the other end. Johnson then shot an air ball on a drive, leading to a 24-second violation, but the Pacers also turned it over on a bad pass with 20 seconds left.
Camby, a 55 percent free throw shooter during the regular season, made two from the line with 13.8 seconds left to cut the deficit to 89-88.
"Marcus was the best player out there," Bird said.
Smits picked up two fouls just over five minutes into the game, and the Knicks were able to tie the game at 17-17 heading into the second quarter when Johnson hit a 30-footer at the buzzer.
Smits returned midway through the second quarter after the Knicks had gone ahead by as many as seven. He scored 15 straight points for the Pacers as Indiana closed the half with a 20-8 run for a 47-42 halftime lead.
Dudley, Johnson and Thomas picked up their fourth fouls by the midpoint of the third quarter, and Thomas got his fifth with 45 seconds left in the period, which ended with the score tied 69-69.
Notes: Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said he considered starting Sprewell, as his assistant coaches suggested, before deciding to go with Dudley. ... Best pulled a groin muscle in the fourth quarter and did not return. ... All the members of the Knicks' dance team put their hair into cornrows for this series. ... 41-year-old Herb Williams played a minute and a half in the first half when the Knicks were running out of big bodies.
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