Pacers knock off Knicks, knot series at 2-2
Posted: Tuesday June 08, 1999 02:05 AM
With the Pacers getting barely an offensive peep from Reggie Miller and Rik Smits, Indiana's supporting cast made the difference Monday night to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
Rose scored 19 points and answered several late Knicks comeback attempts with backbreaking plays, Mullin had his first breakout game of the series with 18 points and Davis added 16 as Indiana defeated New York 90-78.
"We talked about that in the huddle -- a lot of people were getting up and leaving despite it being a 10-point game -- that if we get up a couple more, this place will be empty," Rose said.
Empty it wasn't, but it was close -- and silent -- by the time the final buzzer sounded.
It was the first time in the series that the game wasn't decided on the final play.
"Any time you're playing in the Garden, their players are feeding off the crowd," Rose said. "If you can keep them eight or 10 points behind, everyone's going to look up at the scoreboard and see that they're not closing ground, and we know they'll turn on their team the way we want them to."
Indeed, scattered boos were heard at halftime as the Knicks trailed by 13, even though Smits and Miller were scoreless.
The Knicks got their deficit down to seven points four different times in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, but each time the Pacers answered quickly -- a three-point play by Dale Davis, a pair of jumpers by Rose and a three-point play by Antonio Davis.
The Knicks didn't get much of a boost from the addition of Latrell Sprewell in the starting lineup. They turned into a sloppy, tentative team on offense, bogged down by missed layups, clanged jumpers and poor execution, and a less determined team on defense. Indiana shot 50 percent.
New York scored only 12 points in the second quarter and struggled in the second half just trying to keep it close.
Indiana outrebounded New York 41-30 and went to the line 30 times, making 22, to the Knicks' 9-for-14 performance on free throws.
More importantly, the Pacers never let the Knicks make a game of it late in the fourth quarter -- a big difference from the first three thrilling games that all went down to the wire. This one, by comparison, was rather lackluster.
"I feel real good," said Antonio Davis, the goat of Game 3 for his late foul on Larry Johnson's 3-pointer. "Erased all the hurt right there seeing the team come out and play like that. We stayed focused for 48 minutes, finally we closed out a game, finally we did a good job on the boards."
Miller, despite his promise to shoot more, managed just 12 points -- all in the second half. Smits was limited to 13 minutes by foul trouble and scored only four.
Antonio Davis' dunk and foul shot gave Indiana a 76-66 lead, and Miller scored five of his points the rest of the way to keep the Pacers comfortably ahead.
"We have to feel good," Davis said. "Homecourt advantage is back in our pockets, but we know this thing isn't over."
The best-of-7 series will be back at Madison Square Garden for Game 6 on Friday night after moving to Indianapolis for the pivotal Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Sprewell shot just 6-for-14 for the Knicks, while Allan Houston was 5-for-16 and Larry Johnson was 5-for-15.
Marcus Camby led New York with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
"We're not making shots right now, and they're a better shooting team than us," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "So, if we get into a shooting contest with them and we're not going to guard them, we're going to struggle."
Indiana held a 45-32 halftime lead on the strength of 12 points from Antonio Davis and 10 from Rose.
"Regardless of what happened tonight, I was going to come out and be aggressive," Rose said.
Smits picked up two quick fouls in the first 30 seconds of the game and did not return until the second half, and Miller got his second personal with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
Indiana held a 23-20 lead after one, then steadily built it up by pounding the ball inside to Antonio Davis or isolating Rose against Houston. A dunk by Antonio Davis gave the Pacers a 41-29 lead with 2:19 left, and he scored the final points of the half with 29 seconds left to give Indiana its 13-point advantage.
The Knicks had trouble cutting into that lead in the third quarter, and Van Gundy pulled Sprewell midway through after he was burned defensively by Mullin on several plays.
The former St. John's star, a native New Yorker, had 10 points in the quarter, and the Pacers still led by nine entering the fourth.
"It was very surprising to me to see them bounce back like that," coach Larry Bird said.
Notes: Charles Oakley was in the crowd, and Muhammad Ali was a last-minute cancellation. ... Fred Hoiberg of the Pacers saw his first playing time of the series and made his first shot since garbage time of Game 1 against Milwaukee in the first round. ... Indiana's victory ensured that this series will go at least six games, meaning the NBA Finals will not start until June 16. ... The Pacers held the Knicks to 10 fast break points.
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