Pacers square series, 90-78

With Miller still off, reserves step up to bring down Knicks

Rose has 19 off bench

Sprewell as starter backfires on N.Y.

June 08, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- After attempting just nine shots in the Indiana Pacers' Game 3 loss, Reggie Miller vowed to be more aggressive last night. But on a night in which Miller again looked ordinary, it was the play of two other struggling swingmen that provided the offensive boost.

Jalen Rose rebounded from a postseason scoring low of two points to contribute 18 off the bench last night, while starting small forward Chris Mullin added 18 as the Pacers defeated the New York Knicks, 90-78, to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series at 2-2.

In splitting the two games in New York, the Pacers regained the home-court advantage that the team lost in dropping the series opener at Market Square Arena. The Pacers, with two of the final three games of the series to be played at home, get their first opportunity to take the advantage in the series in Game 5 tomorrow night in Indiana.

"We've been here before, and we know what it takes to win," said Rose about regaining the home-court advantage. "We're going back to Indiana, and we have the best sixth man in the country."

The Pacers could have easily been a deflated team last night, especially with the way they lost on Larry Johnson's four-point play in the closing seconds of Game 3.

Instead, the Knicks were the team that came out flat, failing to take advantage of a tactical move in which Latrell Sprewell replaced Kurt Thomas in the starting lineup.

New York coach Jeff Van Gundy's intent was to put more scoring punch on the floor at the top of the game. But Sprewell wound up struggling at both ends of the court.

On offense, Sprewell hit six of 14 shots, finishing with 12 points. On defense, he had a hard time finding Mullin -- leading to the 35-year-old shooting guard getting off to a hot start.

"They crushed us," a disappointed Van Gundy said after the game. "We're right back to where we were with this team in the regular season. If we think we're going to win a series against this team by giving up 50 percent shooting, we're mistaken."

But the start was not what the Pacers had hoped for. Starting center Rik Smits picked up his second foul less than a minute into the game and wound up playing just 30 seconds in the first half. Miller also picked up two fouls early, leaving Indiana's top two playoff scorers without any points in the first half.

Fortunately for the Pacers, reserves Antonio Davis (12 first-half points) and Rose (10 points) picked up the scoring slack in the first half.

But it was Mullin, especially, who provided the offensive spark early, with Smits and Miller both on the bench. Mullin scored six points in the opening period and the Pacers -- after Rose hit a jumper with just over a second left -- had a 23-20 lead at the end of one quarter.

As the Knicks had difficulty with their scoring and taking care of the ball, the Pacers were able to boost their lead to nine points less than four minutes into the second quarter after a free throw by Sam Perkins made it 33-24.

Miller finally re-entered the game midway through the second quarter, but he missed his one shot the rest of the half as his tentative offensive play continued.

Fortunately for the Pacers, Davis -- who committed the foul on Larry Johnson's three-pointer that led to New York's Game 3 win -- scored six of his 12 first-half points over the final 2: 48. It was a layup by Davis with 29 seconds left that gave the Pacers the 45-32 lead.

Said Davis afterward: "When `Larry Legend' comes at you and says he needs something from you, you have to come out and give it your all.

"Everybody stayed agressive, contesting shots and taking the ball to the bucket. We did a good job making shots, and remained focused."

Miller finally got on the scoring board in the third quarter when he hit a three-pointer midway through the period, his first field goal in 47 minutes. He would score five points in the quarter, later connecting on two free throws after he was fouled by Johnson on a three-point attempt.

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