The New York Knicks are outplaying and outhustling the Indiana Pacers.
After the Knicks beat the Pacers 89-78 Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference finals, Indiana coach Larry Brown said New York's extra effort was as crucial as Patrick Ewing's 32 points and 13 rebounds."It you look at all the hustle plays, I think the Knicks came out ahead on every one of them," Brown said. "That's why they've been so successful this year and the last couple of years - they get every loose ball and they get every long rebound and they make every effort play. And we haven't done that."
Rik Smits and Vern Fleming agreed with their coach.
"We're going to have to be more aggressive, dive for loose balls and make the hustle plays like New York did tonight," Smits said.
"They came up with a bunch of second shots and all the loose balls," Fleming said.
The Knicks outrebounded the Pacers 47-35 and had 11 steals compared to seven for Indiana.
"I thought we started to get the loose balls and hit the boards harder (in the second half)," New York guard Greg Anthony said. "It was a tremendous effort for us."
Ewing was tremendous for the Knicks. He made his last seven shots, including four baskets and 10 points during an 18-2 run that broke the game open in the second half. New York trailed by five when Ewing hit a jumper with 3:19 left in the third quarter. When Ewing capped the spurt with another jumper, it gave the Knicks an 11-point lead with 7:46 remaining in the game.
The Pacers never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"Patrick was just not going to let us lose," Knicks coach Pat Riley said. "He's as committed as any superstar I've ever been around. He's adamant that the ball is going to go through him."
Derek Harper, who has struggled in the playoffs, broke out of his slump with an excellent, all-around game. The Knicks guard had 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds while committing only one turnover in 36 minutes.
Charles Oakley added 17 points for the Knicks, who overcame a second-quarter cold spell during which they missed 15 of 16 shots.
Reggie Miller led Indiana with 23 points, and Smits had 22. No other Pacer scored in double figures.
"We picked up our defense and didn't give them a lot of comfortable looks at the basket," Harper said.
The Knicks got a boost from the loud crowds in the first two games at Madison Square Garden, where they are 8-0 in the playoffs. Now the Pacers return home for Games 3 and 4 at Market Square Arena on Saturday and Monday.