Indiana proves much too versatile for Knicks to defend against

Pacers drive home their point

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- Big difference between this place and Miami.

The Indiana Pacers made that clear right away Tuesday night and repeatedly hammered the point home.

Displaying the type of potent, balanced offense New York hadn't seen in weeks, the Pacers got double-figure scoring from six players and opened an early 18-point lead that the Knicks never fully recovered from in a 102-88 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Knicks, accustomed to focusing on just one or two offensive threats in the first two rounds against Toronto and Miami, couldn't cope with the many Pacers who all had their touch.

''Of course they're very different than Miami. Everything they do is different,'' Latrell Sprewell of the Knicks said. ''We've got to switch gears.''

Austin Croshere came off the bench to score a playoff career-high 22 points, while Reggie Miller had 19, Jalen Rose 17 and Rik Smits 16. Dale Davis added 14 points and 16 rebounds and Mark Jackson had 11 points and 13 assists as the Pacers put together the highest-scoring game against the Knicks this postseason.

In their first 10 playoff games, the Knicks had not allowed an opponent to score more than 88 points.

The Pacers reached that mark with more than six minutes remaining on a 3-pointer by Croshere that gave them a 14-point lead, and Croshere got them to 100, too, on a 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining.

Croshere, a bench warmer in last season's Eastern Conference finals when Indiana lost to the Knicks in six games, came off the bench to more than neutralize Marcus Camby.

Shooting 7-for-10 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers and 4-for-4 from the free throw line, Croshere reached double figures for the fifth time this postseason and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Knicks safely out of comeback range.

''They left me open,'' Croshere said. ''Everybody was out there sticking shots, and they had to leave somebody open with their double teams. I'm sure I wasn't their primary focus, and that's something I've tried to take advantage of all year -- the attention teams pay to our other guys.''

Sprewell led New York with 22 points, while Patrick Ewing had 21. Allan Houston added 18 points for the Knicks, who were coming off seven grueling, low-scoring games against the defensively oriented Miami Heat.

Running into a different kind of team, one that can put points on the board quickly and much more easily, New York allowed the Pacers to score 35 in the first quarter -- a total that the Heat usually wouldn't reach until late in the second quarter or early in the third.

''They got the job done earlier than we did. We wasted a quarter,'' Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. ''When you waste a quarter in this league, you get beat. We were ill-prepared for their intensity in the first quarter, obviously.''

With Smits making five of his first six shots, the Pacers jumped to a 17-7 lead just over six minutes into the first quarter. Croshere hit his first shot, a 3-pointer, to put Indiana ahead 24-13.

A dunk by Davis, a blocked shot by Miller and a 3-pointer by Jackson got the lead up to 14, and Croshere tipped in a missed 3 at the buzzer to give the Pacers a 35-17 lead after the first quarter.

The Knicks got back into it with runs of 8-0 and 9-0, and Indiana's lead was down to 52-48 at halftime after Jackson was called for a flagrant foul against Sprewell on a breakaway with 3.2 seconds left.

The Knicks got within two points early in the third before Rose finally got on the board and scored six of Indiana's first eight points of the quarter. The Pacers went up by as many as nine before the Knicks again cut it to two.

Sprewell and Rose exchanged emphatic dunks on alternate possessions late in the quarter, as clear a sign as any that the Pacers had an answer for every Knicks' run.

It was 78-71 entering the fourth, and the Pacers got their lead back to double digits by opening the quarter with a 7-2 run ending with a layup by Davis while New York was missing seven of its first eight shots.

''This is going to be a long series, a dogfight,'' Miller said. ''This is only one game. I'm more worried about Thursday's game because now they'll have time to prepare.''

Notes: Since joining the NBA in 1976, the Pacers have played in 21 playoff series prior to this one. When they win Game 1, the Pacers are 10-0. When they lose Game 1, they are 0-11. In the five previous Knicks-Pacers series, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series. ... The 35 points in the first quarter were two shy of Indiana's playoff record set in Game 6 against Philadelphia in the second round. ... Larry Johnson was a non-factor for New York with just three points and five rebounds. Last year, he was the Knicks' leading scorer in the series against the Pacers before getting injured in Game 6.



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