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Knicks Fall Apart, Pacers Up 3-2


The boos came down from the stands in one big booming voice, the hometown fans venting at their team after an utterly miserable start.

Down by 18, beaten on defense and off-target on offense, the Pacers looked pathetic.

Then, suddenly, it all changed. So suddenly it was shocking.

Making a quick turnaround from an early 18-point deficit, Indiana overcame the return of Patrick Ewing to defeat the New York Knicks 88-79 Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

"Our fans were disappointed with the way we started, but I wasn't disappointed because we were playing hard," Pacers coach Larry Bird said. "I just hoped they wouldn't put their heads between their legs."

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Game Summary

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  • The Pacers turned that huge early deficit into a two-point lead by halftime, closing the second quarter with a 23-3 run. They built their lead as high as 10 points in the second half, getting strong games from Travis Best, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose and Reggie Miller, and didn't let the Knicks back within striking distance in the fourth quarter.

    Best had his best game of the series with 24 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, while Rose had 18 points and seven rebounds, Miller had 16 points and Jackson added 11 points, seven assists, no turnovers and a new gesture an Indiana version of Larry Johnson's "Big L," crossing his arms over his head or in front of his chest after big baskets.

    Jackson called the gsture "the cross."

    "Rather than the helicopter or a jiggle or anything else, I thought of glorifying God," he said.

    Game 6 is Friday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks will try to regain some of the momentum they built by winning Games 3 and 4. But in order to win the best-of-seven series they'll still have to win a game at Indiana, where they are 0-5 since the Pacers moved into Conseco Fieldhouse.

    The Knicks will also have to find a way to score more points. They had 32 in the first quarter in building their big lead, then scored just eight in the second and 15 in the third.

    Allan Houston led New York with 25 points, but no one else did much. Ewing returned after missing two games with foot tendinitis and had nine points and four rebounds in the first quarter before finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds.

    Johnson, hampered by a foot injury sustained at the end of Game 4, shot just 2-for-8 for four points, while Latrell Sprewell was 4-for-14. The Knicks shot 12-for-19 in the first quarter but were 18-for-54 the rest of the way.

    Best shot 7-for-11 for the Pacers, who made 10 3-pointers, went 20-for-25 at the line and committed only seven turnovers.

    "We've seen these guys so many times, we don't have to come out with many new schemes," Best said. "We just need to help each other out. When we do that, we go to another level."

    With Rik Smits starting 0-for-5, the Pacers shot just 27 percent in the first quarter and trailed 32-17 entering the second. New York's lead reached 37-19 two minutes into the quarter, and the fans booed the home team off the court during a timeout.

    If the Pacers needed something to inspire them, perhaps that did the trick.

    They had a 9-0 run coming out of the timeout before Ewing hit a jumper in the lane, then closed the half with a 13-1 run that included a 3-pointer by Best after the Pacers grabbed two offensive rebounds.

    "This is not our defining moment. For the people just jumping on board it may be, but we've been there and done that," Jackson said. "We're a veteran basketball team that has no quit in us, and we understood that it was far from over."

    Indiana had 10 offensive rebounds to New York's three at halftime, and Rose had 13 points. New York tied the game early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Houston, but the Pacers scored the next nine points and eventually went up by 11 as Jackson backed his way into the lane a move he has always had success with against the Knicks and hit a jump hook.

    The Knicks had to play catchup from there and never got closer than six.

    "We never nipped t, never cut it off at the right time," Houston said. "It just got worse. We had a hangover from that after halftime, and we never recovered."

    New York pulled within six with 5:03 left as Houston made his third shot of the fourth quarter, but Best hit a layup after Derrick McKey hustled down an offensive rebound in the corner one of the Pacers' 13 offensive boards.

    Sam Perkins hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:48 left, and Best hit a 3-pointer with 2:33 left for an 82-71 lead. Best then shook Charlie Ward with a shake-and-bake move and hit an 18-footer for an 84-73 lead with 1:46 left that all but ended it.

    This is the Pacers' fifth trip to the conference finals in seven years, and the Pacers have won three games but never a fourth in three of those series. In 1994, the Pacers had a 3-2 lead on the Knicks but then lost the final two games of the series.

    "We're one win away from being in Macy's window, in front of the whole country," Jackson said. "That's what we've dreamed about, and that's what we look forward to."

    Ewing had no trouble running up and down the court early on as he grabbed the first rebound of the game and hit his first three shots. The Knicks made their first eight attempts from the field, going 2-for-3 from 3-point range, to quickly open a double-digit lead.

    Ewing converted a layup with his back to the basket on the fast break, then converted a three-point play for a 27-13 lead.

    Things looked good for the Knicks at that point, then went steadily downhill.

    "Understanding the urgency of Game 5, we responded," Miller said. "Larry kept saying `Just keep playing the way you're playing.' We were playing hard.

    "We need to play the way we played the last 36 minutes and add 12 on to it," Miller said.

    Notes

  • A handful of Knicks fans got tickets in the first three rows despite a public plea from the Pacers asking scalpers not to sell the best seats to New Yorkers. Spike Lee had a set in the second row opposite Indiana's bench. One fan who claimed to have paid $1,250 for his second-row seat was ejected in the fourth quarter. Another fan sitting next to Lee came close to getting ejected.
  • The Knicks had the lowest-scoring playoff quarter in their history with the eight points in the second period. The old record was nine against Philadelphia in 1983.
  • Smits played just 12 minutes and didn't score.
  • McKey, a non-factor in the first four games, had a team-high nine rebounds four on the offensive end. No member of the Knicks had more than two.

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