Knicks back Pacers to wall

New York rallies for 101-94 win, 3-2 edge in Eastern finals

June 10, 1999|By THE RECORD (HACKENSACK, N.J.)

INDIANAPOLIS -- One more.

One more victory and the New York Knicks' improbable journey takes them to the NBA Finals.

Bouncing up from the canvas after their seemingly devastating Game 4 loss 48 hours earlier, as well as an early 14-point deficit last night, the Knicks walked out of Market Square Arena with a stunning 101-94 Game 5 victory. That brings them home to Madison Square Garden for Game 6 tomorrow, ahead three games to two and with a chance to put away the Pacers.

And who could have imagined that, after the 12-point licking they took in Game 4 and the blows they absorbed from Reggie Miller and Co. last night? Miller finally showed up for the series, shooting 9-for-19 and scoring 30, but the Knicks -- who won their sixth postseason game on the road -- had answers.

Latrell Sprewell, 29 points, 13 (on 14 attempts) from the foul line. Allan Houston, welcoming himself to the series with 19. And again flying through the air with the greatest of ease, Marcus Camby, for 13 rebounds plus 21 points.

And then there was Larry Johnson, who scored 17, six of which may have been even bigger than his game-winning four-point play in Game 3.

With the Knicks clinging to an 83-82 lead and the clock under four minutes, Johnson took a Sprewell kick-out pass and hit a three with 3: 38 to play.

Following a Rik Smits baseline jumper, Johnson found himself alone again behind the arc, a couple steps left of where he hit his previous trey. He buried this one, too, making it Knicks 89, Pacers 84.

"Larry's threes were huge," coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

After a Smits left-handed miss, Camby scored off a Sprewell pass to make it 91-84 with 2: 14 left. Miller answered that with a three, but Sprewell replied with a pair of free throws to make it 93-87 with 1: 44 left, and the parade to the free-throw line began.

The Knicks were down, 77-72, with 8 1/2 minutes left when they began their final, desperate push. First they ran off seven straight points, with a Johnson 8-footer on the left baseline giving them the lead.

Miller got that lead back with a three-point play, but Camby slammed home a Sprewell miss with 5: 55 to go and, ultimately, they never trailed again.

"Marcus was great again," Van Gundy said. "He was great on the board, got to the free-throw line. He's just playing terrific basketball right now."

Their defense limited the Pacers to a 41.8 percent performance from the field that included a 4-for-14 egg laid by a foul-plagued Smits. The Knicks' offense committed only seven turnovers, one in the second half.

And now history is on their side. Of the 11 conference finals tied at 2-2 in the '90s, 10 have gone to the team that won Game 5. The only one that didn't was in 1994, when Miller scored 25 fourth-quarter points to beat the Knicks in the Garden, only to have the Knicks come back to win Game 6 in Indiana and Game 7 at home.

This was a Knicks team that pledged intensity before the game -- on the boards, on defense, everywhere. Goaded by an ugly videotape session during which Van Gundy said he "really let them have it" as he pointed out their Game 4 mistakes, the Knicks never let the Pacers get away.

"It's more than strategy, more than matchups," Johnson said. "It's the intensity level, a championship intensity level."

The Knicks got that intensity, even after taking a 28-14 first-quarter deficit on the chin. They ended up taking a 38-37 lead 2: 35 before halftime and adjourning with a 42-all tie.

"We held the fort in the first half," Van Gundy said. "We made some big shots."

The Pacers scored the first nine points and built a 14-point lead but couldn't shake the Knicks because they couldn't keep Camby down. Flying over and around Indiana's big bodies, he punctuated a 16-4 second-quarter run with a short follow-up jumper and a foul shot that gave the Knicks their 38-37 lead. His eight rebounds, two blocks, and 11 points were the biggest reason the Knicks were even for the half.

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