Patrick Ewing, intent on getting the New York Knicks into the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, played a career game to get them there Sunday night.
Ewing's rebound dunk put the Knicks ahead with 26 seconds left, and they advanced to the championship round against Houston with a 94-90 victory over Indiana. He finished with 24 points, 22 rebounds and 11 offensive rebounds.The Knicks' 4-3 victory in the Eastern Conference finals was built on effort, especially by Ewing, who appeared to win the game by sheer force of will. New York had 28 offensive rebounds - two short of the NBA playoff record - and they outrebounded the Pacers 51-29.
"We were working for the jump shot," Ewing said. "I told coach, `Forget all that stuff, and give me the ball. If we're going to lose, let me lose it."'
John Starks scored 17 points and Derek Harper 16 for the Knicks. Reggie Miller, the hero of Indiana's Game 5 victory with 25 fourth-quarter points, finished with 25 points while Byron Scott had 17.
The Knicks, while improving their postseason record at Madison Square Garden to 9-1, increased to 19 the number of consecutive games won by the home team in seventh games of NBA playoff series. The last road team to win a Game 7 was Philadelphia, which won at Boston in the 1982 Eastern Conference finals.
The Knicks will face a Rockets team that made the finals in 1981 and 1986, but lost to Boston in six games both times. The series begins Wednesday night at Houston.
By making the finals for the first time since 1973, when they won the second of two NBA championships, the Knicks gave coach Pat Riley a chance for his fifth title. Riley's four championships with the Los Angeles Lakers place him third on the career coaching list behind Red Auerbach's nine and John Kundla's five.
The Knicks, holding Indiana to 28 percent shooting in the third quarter, rallied after trailing by 12 late in the period.
Derrick McKey's 3-pointer that was released with one second left on the shot clock gave Indiana a 74-69 lead with 10:38 remaining. A layup by Anthony Mason, a 3-pointer by Harper and a layup by Harper after a court-length pass by Ewing gave New York a 76-74 edge.
New York made it 85-80 with consecutive layups by Starks and Mason, but the Pacers kept up the pressure with 3-pointers by Miller and McKey, closing them to an 87-86 deficit.
Consecutive jumpers by Ewing and Miller made it 89-88 before a miss by Rik Smits and 24-second second violation by New York gave the Pacers the ball with 47 seconds to go. The Knicks then left Dale Davis wide open under the basket and Haywoode Workman found him for an easy layup and a 90-89 edge.
Ewing, who also had seven assists, then put the Knicks ahead for good with his rebound dunk. Miller's next shot missed the rim, and Davis failed to control the rebound.
Miller's hard foul on Starks was called a flagrant foul, giving him two free throws and possession to New York. Starks made one of the free throws, but the Pacers had to foul him again, and the made both this time to seal the victory.
After Ewing started the second half with a free throw to bring the Knicks within three, they missed six straight shots, while the Pacers scored eight consecutive points for a 59-48 lead. Indiana later extended the margin to 65-53, their largest of the game, with 4:39 left in the third quarter.
But the Pacers missed nine consecutive field-goal attempts in a span of 6:25 as New York came back with a 14-4 spurt, closing the deficit to 69-67 with 30 seconds left. Davis finally broke the drought with a rebound dunk with 2.2 seconds to go, leaving the Pacers with a 71-67 lead.
Indiana, shooting 43 percent for the series, made 21 of 31 shots (68 percent) in the first half, but led just 51-47 as the Knicks grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, five more than their total of nine in the previous two games.
New York got its ninth offensive rebound ninth at the 9:06 mark of the second quarter, leading to a jumper by Hubert Davis that gave the Knicks their largest lead of the first half, 30-24.
Then Scott took over, scoring 13 points and making all five of his shots during a 19-8 run that put the Pacers ahead 43-38.
A three-point play by Charles Smith tied the score 46-46 with 1:28 left, but Miller hit a 3-pointer 21 seconds later and then banked in another shot with two-tenths of a second left, giving Indiana a four-point halftime edge.
The Pacers, outscored 15-2 and 15-4 at the start of the previous two games, used a 7-0 run to take an 11-8 advantage five minutes into the game.
The lead changed hands two more times before Starks tied it with a 3-pointer and put the Knicks ahead 22-19 with another. Sam Mitchell's jumper with 2.8 seconds remaining left the Pacers trailing 24-23 at the end of the quarter despite their 63 percent shooting in the period.