Knicks 101, Pacers 94
INDIANAPOLIS -- As the final seconds ticked down, Patrick Ewing sat on the sidelines with a huge grin on his face, slapping hands with his team-mates and pumping his fist at a handful of New York Knicks fans, while the Indiana faithful watched in stunned silence.A few minutes later, his screams of joy echoed through the back hallways at Market Square Arena.
Those are rare displays of emotion from Ewing, even if he is wearing a suit, about as useful as a waterboy. Forgive him his exuberance, though. His team is one game away from the NBA Finals, one step closer to the ring Ewing covets so desperately.
"There are three teams left and we're one of them," Larry Johnson said after the Knicks' 101-94 victory Wednesday night. "We're 3-2 and going back home. This is a golden opportunity."
And the Knicks have Johnson, Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby to thank. Hardly fazed when they were trailing by 14, the Knicks responded with what might have been their best postseason game since their title chase in 1994.
Sprewell proved he deserves his spot in the starting lineup, slashing and banging his way to 29 points. Camby grabbed a rebound a split second after entering the game for the first time, and finished with 21 points, 13 boards and six blocks.
And Johnson, who beat the Pacers with a four-point play to win Game 3, did them in from long range again, hitting two huge 3s in less than a minute late in the fourth quarter.
The victory gives the Knicks a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
"It's a one-game season for us," said Reggie Miller, who got 10 of his 30 points at the free-throw line. "We got out of the gate well, but give New York credit. They stepped up their defense, forced us into tough shots and got some easy baskets on the break."
The Knicks also got 19 points from Allan Houston and 10 from Kurt Thomas. They had a season-low seven turnovers, and their reserves outscored the vaunted Pacers' backups 34-15.
They rebounded from an abysmal 24 percent in the first quarter to finish 34-of-75 (45 percent) from the floor. They scored 36 points in the fourth.
As for the Pacers, Mark Jackson scored 16 points, and Chris Mullin 13 and Dale Davis 13 each for Indiana.
But the rest of the gang was nowhere to be found. Rik Smits? A whopping eight points. Jalen Rose? Followed up his breakthrough game with a six-point effort. Antonio Davis? Four points, all in the final quarter.
"We came up with big basket after big basket," Thomas said. "It was just what we needed. Now we have to go back home and finish them off."
That the Knicks are even in this position is stunning. Preoccupied throughout the season by the will-he-or-won't-he-get-fired mess, New York skidded into the playoffs as the eighth seed. But they beat Miami and then went on to sweep Atlanta and become the first No. 8 seed to make the conference finals. Then they lost Ewing for the rest of the playoffs with a partially torn Achilles' tendon
Now they're one victory away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1994.
"When we started off the season, no one thought we would be where we are now," Camby said. "Just the opportunity to go to the finals is a dream come true for most of us. We just have to make the best of it. Everyone was writing us off, but we knocked off Miami, swept Atlanta and now we are here."
And they keep making it interesting. The Knicks missed their first five shots as Indiana jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but then stormed back with a 10-0 run of their own. The Pacers responded with spurts of 13-2 and 6-0, and New York was down 28-14 with no offense and no momentum.
But in a weird twist, the Knicks outscored the Pacers 28-14 in the second quarter. Camby scored eight points in the last 3:35 of the half as the teams went into the locker room tied at 42.
"We got nothing out of our bench," Pacers coach Larry Bird said. "Especially in the second quarter."
Indiana led for most of the third quarter, with its biggest advantage at 67-61 after Miller scored eight straight points. Rose scored on a nifty drive with five seconds left in the third to give the Pacers a 69-65 lead heading into the fourth.
Indiana led 77-72 before Sprewell, Camby and Johnson hit consecutive shots for the Knicks, giving New York a 78-77 edge with 7:10 left. The two teams traded leads until Johnson finally put the game away.
With the Knicks clinging to an 83-82 lead, Johnson hung back on the baseline and just waited until Sprewell passed. He caught the ball, squared up and let fly from 23 feet totally untouched.
Swish. Three points.
It was the same scenario 48 seconds later, only this time the shot was from 24 feet.
"You have to make plays down the stretch," Bird said. "We need someone to step up and make the plays like Larry Johnson did for them."
Friday is their last chance. If they fail, Ewing's screams will be echoing through the halls of Market Square for a long, long time.
Notes: Dale Davis tied a career playoff high with 18 rebounds for the Pacers, who had a 43-37 edge on the boards. ... Filmmaker and Knicks fan Spike Lee traveled to the game, sitting behind New York's bench amid a crowd of rabid Pacers fans. ... In response to the abuse the Knicks took in Games 1 and 2, when beer and coins were tossed at them, there was a noticeable increase in security.