Trash-talking Pacers silence Knicks, 83-77

May 31, 1994|By Mike Bruton | Mike Bruton,Knight-Ridder News Service

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana's Reggie Miller, NBA trash-talker extraordinaire, had been unusually quiet through the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals. That changed yesterday -- but the violent nature of this series did not.

Miller chatted incessantly in the crucial closing minutes, drawing the heavy-handed attention of New York Knicks guard Derek Harper, as the Pacers pocketed an 83-77 victory.

The win tied the best-of-seven series at two games each and left the Knicks, a team that was thought capable of blasting Indiana away in four or five games, rattled and angry. The series resumes tomorrow in New York.

"I tried to be a model citizen," said Miller, who scored 31 points, 13 in the fourth period. "It was my teammates who were telling me to be the [trash-talker]. It was playful."

"He had his two cents to say," Miller said of Harper, "and I had mine."

Miller seems to love a dare, and he certainly made himself a moving target in a highly charged game that saw several confrontations and near-fights. This was one ugly, violent attempt at a basketball game.

The Indiana guard really got into his blab-and-shoot game with a little more than four minutes left, after he hit a jumper to give the Pacers a 74-70 lead. That came not long after Hubert Davis had silenced the raucous crowd at Market Square Arena by sinking a three-pointer to give the Knicks a momentary 70-68 lead.

That's when Harper, whose expression showed thinly veiled contempt, fouled Miller the first of four times in the last 3:19.

"We were just talking," Harper said. "Nothing big. Reggie and I were having a conversation. It's irrelevant really."

To the contrary, it was pertinent.

Miller, who hit 17 of 19 free throws in the whistle-infested game, extended the Indiana lead to 76-70 with two shots from the line. Harper fouled him again, harder, with 2:45 remaining, and the lanky Pacers guard pushed the edge back to four points after Patrick Ewing had made two free throws.

Indiana led, 80-75, with 35.9 seconds left, but Byron Scott gave the Knicks a chance to tie the game by inbounding the ball to John Starks, who drove in to make it 80-77.

Derrick McKey missed two free throws with 28.4 seconds left, leading to the biggest heartbreak of all for the Knicks.

With 6.8 seconds left, Ewing swung the ball to Davis at three-point range right in front of the Pacers' bench, and the second-year guard missed the pass.

Knicks coach Pat Riley said the Pacers on the bench were yelling at Davis and distracted him.

Some might even say that Miller taunted Harper and the Knicks out of the game, because they already were brooding about how rotten a game they had played.

"You call it taunting," said Indiana coach Larry Brown, "I call it chitchat."

The chitchat may have disrupted the Knicks' rhythm. New York had 24 turnovers and shot 37.7 percent from the field, with Ewing (9-for-18 from the field and 25 points) the lone Knick to shoot .500.

"We're getting used to the way the Knicks play," Brown said. "If you don't play the way they play, you're going to get killed."

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