Work in Sports
Behind the line
Knicks' 3-point shots help them draw even
Posted: Tuesday May 30, 2000 01:39 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- So well were they playing and so easy were the points coming, that the New York Knicks got a two-minute standing ovation at the end of the first half.
The game got closer and a 17-point lead shrank to one, but the Knicks never stopped playing at a high level as they defeated the Indiana Pacers 91-89 Monday to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
"I don't know if we made a statement, but we did come out with an edge to us, a good mental determination, intensity and energy," coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Indiana is so good offensively that leads are not as safe as they'd be against defensive-oriented teams, and thankfully the clock ran out on them."
No player came up bigger than Larry Johnson, who was flashing his "Big L" gesture and spinning gleefully in circles after hitting a 3-pointer with 4:25 left to swing the momentum back New York's way after the Pacers had pulled within one.
Charlie Ward added a 3-pointer two minutes later for an eight-point lead that helped the Knicks wrap it up after they dropped 33 points on the Pacers in the first quarter for their highest-scoring quarter of the postseason.
New York played again without center Patrick Ewing, who sat out his second straight game with acute tendinitis in his right foot, but their other injured players -- Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby -- suited up.
Sprewell, who broke a bone in his left foot at the end of Game 3, jumped so high for a thunderous dunk in the first quarter that he nearly hit his forehead on the rim. He finished with 12 points and held Jalen Rose to 18, while Camby played on a sprained knee and had eight rebounds, five points and three blocks.
"I'm not surprised," said Kurt Thomas, who filled in admirably for Ewing. "I know the character of this team."
Another of the injured Knicks was Johnson, whose chronically sore back stiffened up Sunday and forced him to miss the second half of practice. Repeatedly scoring on isolation plays in the low post against Dale Davis and passing to open teammates when he was double-teamed, Johnson shot 10-for-16 from the field, making five 3-pointers, with seven rebounds and four assists.
His 3-pointer with 4:25 left led to the longest-lasting "Big L" gesture of his career, Johnson cocking his right arm into a right angle and pointing at his elbow with his left fist for almost 10 seconds.
The shot gave New York an 85-76 lead, and the Knicks hung on from there to ensure that the series will return to Madison Square Garden for Game 6 Friday night.
"This game was the most I've been open during the series," Johnson said. "They went to double-team, and I found myself wide open."
Game 5 is Wednesday night at Indianapolis, where the Pacers looked so confident just a few days ago after winning the first two games of the series. But it was the Knicks who had that look over the weekend, even as the injuries kept piling up.
Allan Houston scored 17 points for the Knicks, Thomas added 16 and Ward had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. New York was 10-for-14 from 3-point range and outrebounded Indiana 41-32.
Reggie Miller had 24 points for the Pacers, who could never come all the way back after allowing the Knicks to open a 14-point lead at the end of the first quarter and the 17-point lead at halftime.
"I still feel like we're going to win this series," Rose said. "I feel like we're the better team. We're disappointed, because any time you get a 2-0 lead and you're the No. 1 seed in the conference, you expect to find ways to win on the other team's floor."
After trailing for nearly the entire game, the Pacers got back into it with a 22-10 run bridging the third and fourth quarters. Miller made a 3-pointer from in front of Spike Lee's courtside seat with 6:50 left -- a large portion of the crowd of 19,763 groaned as the ball was in mid-air -- to make it 77-76.
Johnson answered with a 3-pointer after a scramble for a loose ball under the basket.
"That was the biggest shot of the game right there," Miller said.
Miller missed a 3 from the same spot as before and then threw the ball away on an entry pass, and Thomas converted a 15-foot jumper to make it 82-76 with 5:12 left. Rose missed a hook shot, and Johnson buried his 3-pointer from the corner.
Indiana pulled within three on a 3-pointer by Travis Best with 10.5 seconds left, but Sprewell iced the victory by making the second of two foul shots with 4.1 seconds to go. Sprewell actually missed his second attempt, but Rose was called for a blatant lane violation to give Sprewell another chance.
Best scored a meaningless tip-in at the buzzer.
The Knicks improved to 5-1 against Indiana in the playoffs when playing without Ewing.
"Look at the percentage with or without him," Indiana center Rik Smits said. "I hope he comes back."
Chris Dudley started in Ewing's place and picked up two quick fouls, bringing Thomas into the game earlier than expected. Thomas started looking to score right away, hitting a jumper the first time he touched the ball.
Sprewell wasn't looking hobbled at all by the broken bone in his foot, soaring through the lane for an emphatic two-handed slam that started the Knicks on an 8-0 run for a 22-12 lead. The Knicks hit 10 of their first 12 shots and finished 14-for-18 in the first quarter to take a 33-19 lead into the second.
The Pacers had an 8-0 run early in the second quarter to pull within six, but it proved to be just a brief flash of cohesion. Failing to run the same plays that had been working in the first three games, such as getting the ball to Smits in the low post or clearing out for isolation plays by Rose, the Pacers repeatedly jacked up jumpers and rarely drove to the basket.
Thomas, Johnson, Houston and Ward all reached double figures by the half, and the Knicks received the thunderous ovation as they walked off the court with a 57-40 lead.
The Pacers kept trying to sustain runs in the third quarter, and each time the Knicks stole the momentum. Two offensive rebounds by Dudley led to second-chance 3-pointers by Johnson and Ward, and another offensive rebound led to Johnson's turnaround jumper for a 67-54 lead.
Indiana was looking to go more to Smits and Rose, but Smits was rushing shots and missing while Rose was trying to find a rhythm. Rose scored nine points in the quarter while Johnson scored seven, and the Knicks took a 73-65 lead into the fourth.
Notes: This victory ended a trend for the Knicks. After falling
behind 2-0 in the playoffs in 1996, 1998 and 1999, they won Game 3
and then lost Game 4 each time. ... New York's victory means that
the start date for the NBA Finals will be Wed. June 7. ... Dudley finished
with five fouls, five rebounds and no points in eight minutes. ...
Derrick McKey played four minutes for Indiana. His only statistics
were two turnovers.