When they needed it, the Indiana Pacers got the same effort, played the same defense and got the same result New York gets when it plays at home.
The Pacers held Patrick Ewing to one point and New York to an NBA record-low for points Saturday, beating the Knicks 88-68 and leaving them with a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals."We pushed their offense way out the way they pushed ours out in New York," Indiana coach Larry Brown said. "I told our guys before the game that this is where the series starts. Now we know we can beat them, and it all depends on how we respond and how they respond."
New York has taken a 2-0 lead at home in its last six playoff series, only to lose Game 3 on the road each time. The Knicks have managed to win four of the previous five series, the only defeat last year's Eastern Conference finals to Chicago.
"We didn't handle the pressure at all," Knicks coach Pat Riley said. "It's amazing that we were even in the game in the third quarter. Then we cracked. From a rebounding standpoint, from a loose ball standpoint and an effort standpoint, they played the way we did at home."
Ewing, averaging 30 points in the first two games of the series, missed all of his 10 shots and didn't score until he hit a free throw with 6:39 left. By then, the Pacers already led by 13 points.
"There are going to be days like this," Ewing said. "You hope there won't be too many. I was being doubled as soon as I touched the ball. But give them credit. They stepped it up."
Brown said that in the first two games, the Pacers tried to play Ewing with one man, giving help "only if we were in real bad position. That didn't work, so today we tried to help our big men a little sooner. Also, he was in foul trouble, and it's tough to come back in the game when you're cold."
Derrick McKey broke out of a slump with 15 points for the Pacers, while Rik Smits and Reggie Miller scored 14 each. Miller also was in foul trouble, and he scored only six points in the first three quarters.
John Starks and Charles Oakley scored 12 points each for the Knicks, 8-0 in the playoffs at home, but 1-5 on the road. Game 4 of the best-of-7 series will be Monday at Market Square Arena.
Indiana, 5-0 at home with five double-digit victories in the postseason, faced a must-win situation in Game 3 as no team in league history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
They got the victory with the kind of defense usually played by the Knicks, who had the lowest points-allowed average this season of any NBA team in 39 years.
But by holding New York to 68 points, the Pacers wiped out their own playoff record-low of 69 set in a second-round loss to Atlanta. The Knicks managed just 29 points on 8-for-29 shooting in the second half, just two more than the NBA record-low.
"We knew we had the record of 69, and in the final minutes we were all yelling from the bench," Brown said. "I was hoping we'd hold the ball."
For the game, the Knicks shot 34.4 percent, 22-for-64, the lowest percentage Indiana has ever allowed in a playoff game. Their 22 field goals were one more than the NBA playoff record-low for one game. New Jersey had 21 against New York this season.
New York's previous low for a playoff game was 77 points, set in 1956 against Syracuse and again in 1990 against Detroit.
Miller and Smits left the game with four fouls in the third quarter, but Indiana took advantage of miserable shooting by the Knicks to outscore them 25-13 in the period, giving the Pacers a 62-52 lead. New York was 3-for-12 from the field and 7-for-14 from the free-throw line in the quarter.
Indiana quickly pulled away in the fourth period, opening a 67-53 lead with 8:32 left. New York got no closer than 10 after that, and the Pacers' final margin matched their largest lead of the game.
Despite getting three points on a combined 1-for-13 shooting from starters Ewing, Starks and Derek Harper in the first half, the Knicks led 39-37 at halftime, forcing 14 turnovers while committing 12.
McKey, who scored seven points on 2-for-16 shooting in Games 1 and 2, made his first three shots and scored eight points in the opening 71/2 minutes, helping the Pacers lead by as many as seven.
But despite eight turnovers and 44 percent shooting, the Knicks closed to 21-19 on Hubert Davis' 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in the first quarter. Baskets by Greg Anthony and Davis then gave New York its first lead 25 seconds into the second period.
Harper, who scored 18 points in Game 2 in support of Ewing's 32, finished with six this time.
"It was a reversal of the first two games," Harper said. "Their defense did a good job on us."
Brown and Riley both predicted Ewing would come back strong Monday.
"He'll probably score 40 in the next game," Brown said.
"He's a great player and he will bounce back," Riley added.