Pacers 98, Knicks 84
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Indiana’s center has the Pacers one win away from retribution.
The revenge Indiana has sought since losing to New York in the Eastern Conference finals last year could be close at hand after the Pacers took a 3-1 lead in their best-of-7 conference semifinal series Saturday.
Rik Smits, the suddenly much-appreciated man in the middle, had 25 points and 11 rebounds, thoroughly dominating the struggling Patrick Ewing in Indiana’s 98-84 victory.
The Pacers have been in a similar position before. They led 3-2 last year only to lose in seven games. This team, Smits said, is a better one.
``As a team, we feel a lot more experienced and confident enough that we can beat the Knicks this series,″ he said.
Game 5 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, where the Pacers won once during the regular season and then stole Game 1. Despite their success there, Reggie Miller expects the playoff-toughened Knicks to draw upon their considerable experience.
``It’s going to be tough to close it out,″ he said. ``We have to come out and match their intensity.″
The Knicks are facing elimination in five games for the first time in coach Pat Riley’s four seasons with the team. Although only four teams have rebounded from 3-1 deficits to win a seven-game series, John Starks brashly predicted New York would be the fifth.
``We’re going to win the series,″ he said.
Riley wasn’t nearly so confident after seeing his team shoot 43 percent from the field and an embarrassing 64 percent from the foul line and get outrebounded for the fourth straight game.
``Our circumstances are dire right now,″ he said.
Miller scored 21 points for Indiana, but much of the credit for the Pacers’ Game 4 win goes to Smits, who took advantage of Ewing’s nagging injuries by darting around him in the paint or slipping away to get open jumpers. Smits hit nine of 16 shots and had 10 points in Indiana’s big third quarter, mostly on jumpers.
``I know I can hit 15-footers consistently,″ he said. ``It helps everybody if I get going on the inside. If I draw the double team, it opens everything up.″
The Pacers led by 18 early in the fourth, but New York wasn’t finished. The Knicks used a 14-4 spurt to cut it to seven with 3:24 left on Anthony Mason’s tip-in. That, however, was their last field goal until a basket by Ewing with 36 seconds left.
Ewing had 25 points for New York and Derek Harper added 12 and nine assists. Harper and Starks, the Knicks’ outside shooters, went a combined 8-of-24 with Starks missing nine of 13 shots one game after hitting seven 3-pointers.
The Pacers overwhelmed the Knicks in the third quarter, holding them to 17 points by pressuring the ball and forcing New York outside.
Down by one at halftime, Indiana came out with a 13-2 run and kept rolling, building the lead to 65-53 after Smits hit three baskets and Mark Jackson made a 3-pointer. After New York called a timeout, Miller came back with another trey to stretch the lead to 15.
``Everything is predicated on our defense,″ Miller said. ``We wanted to make it an up-and-down game, open it up and get some easy ones.″
The Pacers did, and by the end of the quarter, they had a 16-point lead.
``We talked about execution,″ Ewing said, ``but we didn’t come out and do it.″
It has been a frustrating series for New York’s center, bothered by pain in his calves and hamstring.
Ewing, who complained about the officiating after scoring just 11 points in Game 3, played better than he had in Games 2 and 3, in which he had a total of 22 points, but got into foul trouble again. After scoring 14 first-half points, he drew his fourth foul with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
After the Pacers took a 38-31 lead with 6:18 left in the first half, New York outscored them 13-5 to grab a one-point lead at halftime. Ewing had six points during the spurt and hit all four of his shots in the second period.
Indiana lost an important component of its front line in the second quarter when Dale Davis dislocated his right shoulder. Davis, the team’s leading rebounder during the regular season, had dislocated the shoulder twice previously this season.
Davis is listed as day-to-day, but Pacers coach Larry Brown said he hoped he would be back for Game 5.
Sam Mitchell started the second half in Davis’ place and scored 11 points.
``Sam Mitchell came off and gave us an unbelievable lift,″ Brown said. ``I think everybody got a lift from the way he played and the way he responded.″