Limping Knicks stand stronger

Minus Ewing, Camby, N.Y. takes Game 3

Pro basketball


NEW YORK - Not again?

Patrick Ewing not only didn't make it back for Game3, but the New York Knicks lost Marcus Camby, too, and still coasted to a 98-95 victory over the Pacers yesterday, cutting Indiana's lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals to 2-1.

As far as the Pacers are concerned, 12 mannequins in Knicks uniforms would be dangerous.

"It was very disappointing," Pacers coach Larry Bird said. "We established inside position with Rik [Smits, who scored21points in the first half]. We were up one point at halftime. We talked about being 24minutes away from putting ourselves in good position to win this series.

"To come out and play the way we did is very disappointing. ... We had too many guys who didn't show up to play. Every time we gave guys an opportunity to go out and there and redeem themselves, they played worse. ..."

Among the 11 other Pacers, Bird didn't mention was Reggie Miller, the renowned Knick-killer, who made six of 12 shots, scored 19 points and was left sitting on the bench as his teammates rallied in the closing seconds.

Not that anyone on either side took the Pacers' late surge seriously. It looked like one of those garbage-time exercises until Austin Croshere made a three-point shot to cut it to 98-95 with seven seconds left.

Under almost identical circumstances, Miller made a steal, stepped back and made a three-pointer to tie Game1 against the Knicks in the 1995 Eastern semifinals. The Pacers went on to win the game and the series. This time, he never got the chance.

"It's a coach's call," Miller said. "I'm not going to check myself in."

Said Bird: "It didn't come down to whether Reggie Miller was in the game at the end. ... He just got frustrated down the stretch and he continued to talk to the officials. I thought I better get him out of there at that time."

Actually, it looked less like a message that Bird was sending to Miller than Bird resigning himself to the fact this wasn't their day.

And now the Knicks will have an opportunity to draw even tomorrow in Game 4 - with or without Ewing and Camby.

Ewing, who missed his 16th playoff game in three years, this due to a sprained right foot, said his condition has improved so much that he definitely will play in the series - perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Camby is also listed as day-to-day after suffering a sprained right medial capsule in his right knee with 8:49 remaining in the first half when he slipped on a wet spot as he planted his foot.

Camby was unable to place any weight on the leg as he was helped into the locker room. A magnetic resonance imaging showed that Camby did not tear his anterior cruciate ligament.

"I feel fine right now," said Camby, who missed 17 games during the regular season with a microscopic tear of his right ACL. "I can't tell if I'll be able to [play Game 4]."

Without Ewing, the Knicks came out, playing with desperation, running up an early 19-9 lead.

But once Camby fell in the second quarter, coach Jeff Van Gundy was left with only four players over 6-foot-5 as the 7-4 Smits began scoring at will against Kurt Thomas and Chris Dudley.

"I do believe our team has excellent pride," Van Gundy said later. "I do. You could have subconsciously had a little give-in to you after halftime.

"You know what? I'm really proud of a guy like Chris Dudley. You look at the box score, nothing spectacular. He's got a bad back, a bad knee, been sitting there, could have easily taken the rest of the season off because of his injuries, and he just went out and played so, so hard."

An injured Dudley is as close as the NBA gets to actually suiting up a mannequin, but he's willing, he defends and, with the Pacers' help, since they didn't make too much of an effort to get the ball inside in the second half, he helped hold Smits to four points the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Knicks turned it up. Latrell Sprewell, whose 4-for-31 shooting in fourth quarters this postseason had received prominent mention in the local press, scored32points. Allan Houston had 28. The Pacers slid away, despite getting26points from Jalen Rose,22 of them coming in the fourth quarter.

"We can't be happy with ourselves because we won a little undermanned," Van Gundy said. "We've got to find a way to win on Monday."

The New York Daily News contributed to this article.

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