An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: 8 points, 9 seconds
Day 23 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers franchise has three ABA titles but has never won an NBA title, and has 15 playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: May 7, 1995
Situation: The No. 2 Indiana Pacers and the No. 3 New York Knicks square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals
Context: A year after the franchise’s first NBA conference finals appearance, Larry Brown, Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers were again on the cusp of playing for the Eastern Conference championship. The Pacers were coming off thei most successful regular season since moving from the ABA to NBA; they finished 52-30, and won the Central Division by two games over Alonzo Mourning and the Charlotte Hornets. Miller led the team in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game, as the Pacers used a deliberate offensive attack (their 90.0 pace was 25th in the NBA out of 27 teams) and a stingy defense (opponents averaged 95.5 points against Indiana, fourth lowest in the NBA) to enter the playoffs as one of the East favorites. The Pacers overmatched the Hawks in round 1, sweeping Atlanta to set up a rematch with the 55-27 Knicks. Each of the previous two years, the Knicks had ended the Pacers’ season; in the first round of the 1993 playoffs, and in the conference finals the following year.
Recap: Let’s cut to the chase. With 18.7 seconds to go, the Knicks looked well on their way to a Game 1 win at Madison Square Garden. New York was up, 105-99, with former Knick Mark Jackson inbounding the ball. Jackson found Reggie Miller off a screen, who drained a three with 16.4 seconds left. He wasn’t done. On the ensuing Knicks inbounds pass, Miller stole the ball, ran back to the three-point line, and hit another triple, all in 3.2 seconds, suddenly tying the game at 105. Foolishly, the Pacers then fouled John Starks, who had the chance to give the Knicks the lead. Alas, Starks missed on both ends; the ball was batted around after the second free throw came up short, Patrick Ewing wound up with it, but missed a short jumper. Miller came down with the defensive rebound and was hacked, sending him to the line. Miller cooly sunk both, giving him eight points over an 8.9-second stretch. With no timeouts, the Knicks were forced to take the final shot without a set play; Greg Anthony dribbled the ball to the corner, slipped, and time expired, giving the Pacers home court advantage and a 1-0 series lead. Indiana won, 107-105
Top players: While Reggie Miller finished with 31 points, Rik Smits actually led Indiana with 34 points. Dale Davis added eight points and 13 rebounds. Seven Knicks players scored in double digits, led by John Starks’ 21. Patrick Ewing scored 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting.
After the game: Indiana and New York went the distance, the rest of the series defined by two Patrick Ewing shots: first, a game-winner in Game 5 that cut the Pacers’ series lead to 3-2, then a botched layup in Game 7 by Ewing that allowed the Pacers to advance to the conference finals. The Pacers took on Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and the No. 1 seed Orlando Magic in the conference finals. After falling behind 2-0, the Pacers won back-to-back home games to knot the series at 2-2. Orlando won Game 5, but Indiana bounced back to send the series to a Game 7. Orlando dominated the decisive game, though, crushing Indiana 105-81. Indiana was eliminated in the first round in the 1996 postseason, and after the team failed to make the playoffs in 1997, Larry Brown was fired.
Check back tomorrow for the Warriors.
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