Knicks 98, Pacers 95

NEW YORK — The New York Knicks were better off without Patrick Ewing — and without Marcus Camby, too.

Despite losing another big man to an injury, the Knicks received inspired performances from Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston to beat the Indiana Pacers 98-95 on Saturday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

It was another chapter of adversity overcome for a Knicks team that always seems to play its best when things look their worst.

If the sight of Ewing sitting on the bench wearing a gray suit wasn't bad enough, it looked even worse when Camby slipped in the second quarter and injured his knee. Camby was taken to a hospital for an MRI exam, but the Knicks didn't miss him.

Sprewell broke out of a series-long slump and scored 32 points,

and Houston won his matchup with Reggie Miller and scored 28 as the Knicks cut the Pacers' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Monday.

Miller had predicted that Houston and Sprewell would take 25 shots apiece in Ewing's absence, and he wasn't that far off.

Sprewell shot 13-for-23, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter, and Houston was 11-for-21. Charlie Ward and Larry Johnson added 14 points apiece for New York, which started the seldom-used Chris Dudley at center as Ewing sat out with acute tendinitis in his right foot.

Coming off a 3-for-14 performance that he called the worst playoff game of his career, Sprewell played with much more confidence. Driving the ball to the basket and freeing himself with one or two dribbles for pull-up jumpers, Sprewell was clearly looking to get his offense going as two of the team's scoring threats were sidelined.

Houston was almost as assertive, using an array of spin moves to free himself of Miller's defense and create enough room to shoot.

Miller, meanwhile, did so little in the fourth quarter that coach Larry Bird sat him for the last couple minutes — even when the Pacers pulled within six with 40 seconds left.

Rose nearly came up with a steal with 30 seconds left, but the Knicks kept control. Chris Childs iced the victory on two foul shots with 23.8 seconds left for a 96-88 lead.

Austin Croshere hit a 3-pointer with 4.6 second left to make it a three-point game, but New York was able to inbound and run out the clock.

After scoring only two fast-break points in the first half, the Knicks took the lead for good in the third quarter as they started pushing the ball upcourt and driving to the basket. Sprewell had nine points in the quarter and New York scored eight on the fast break.

Sprewell hit his first shot of the final period, a jumper that snapped his 0-for-11 streak over the fourth quarters of the last three games. Sprewell hit his next one, a 3-footer for a seven-point lead, and his next, too, a jumper over Rose that made it 77-68 with 8:35 left.

Houston pushed the lead to 11 on a driving layup through traffic, and Sprewell fed Thomas for a layup that made it 81-68 with 6:31 left. From there it was only a question of whether the Knicks could hang on.

Jalen Rose led Indiana with 26, including 22 in the fourth quarter. Rik Smits added 25, scoring only four points and taking just five shots in the second half after dominating the first 18 minutes.

Camby went down with 8:49 left in the second quarter when he drove to the basket, lost his footing and slid several inches as his weight shifted to his right leg. He was carried off the court and then wheeled out of the building.

Camby was averaging only 5.0 points while shooting 31 percent from the field during the series, but the Knicks were counting on him to break out of his funk and at least provide some rebounding.

It turned out they didn't need him. He sprained a medial collateral capsule, but there was no ligament damage, a team spokesman said. Camby's status was listed as day-to-day.

The first half ended with Indiana ahead 42-41 after both teams had 9-0 runs to alternate control of the momentum. The Pacers repeatedly fed the ball to Smits in the low post, where Dudley and Kurt Thomas were helpless to defend him.

Smits scored 12 of Indiana's first 17 points and had 21 just past the midpoint of the second quarter, but he didn't score again until 3:14 remained in the third quarter as the Pacers got away from repeatedly looking to dump the ball inside to him.

Miller had 12 points in the third to keep Indiana close, but the Knicks steadily pulled ahead over the final five minutes of the quarter to go ahead by as many as nine, 71-62.

Notes: Croshere was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter after he was on the receiving end of a bump and a forearm shove by Larry Johnson. It was unclear exactly what Croshere did wrong. . . . Miller picked up a technical midway through the third for barely complaining after a foul wasn't called as he hit a jumper. . . . Sprewell glared angrily and yelled at the Indiana bench after tripping over assistant coach Rick Carlisle's foot.