The Knicks dropped the ball.
With New York trailing by three points, Hubert Davis dropped Patrick Ewing's pass out of bounds with 6.8 seconds left, sending New York to a frustrating 83-77 loss in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals yesterday at Market Square Arena.
The Knicks' advantage in the series has disappeared, just as their offense disappeared this weekend. The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2, with Game 5 tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
While neither team has won on the other team's court, the home-court advantage was about the only thing the Knicks could feel good about when this game ended. The Pacers, on the other hand, could smell an upset in the works.
"I like our chances better now than when we came here down, 2-0," said Pacers coach Larry Brown. "They thoroughly whipped us in New York. There were some guys on our team who had doubts we could beat them. Now I think we believe we can beat them."
It was a game of missed shots, miscues and missed opportunities for the Knicks, who were held to 77 points after their 68-point performance in Game 3. But Davis' mistake was the most costly.
Derrick McKey gave the Knicks life when he missed two free throws with 26.5 seconds to play and Indiana leading, 80-77. The Knicks called timeout, either looking for a quick two points or a three-pointer to tie the game.
They got neither. Ewing was swarmed in the low post. So the Knicks passed the ball around the perimeter. Finally, John Starks passed to Ewing, who started to shoot a jumper but then spotted Davis alone on the right wing behind the three-point line.
Had Davis caught the pass, he would have had a chance at a wide-open three-pointer to tie the game. But the pass went right through his hands and out of bounds in front of the Pacer bench.
The crowd roared. Davis hung his head. Then Haywoode Workman made a free throw with 5.2 seconds left to put the Pacers ahead by 81-77. Charles Oakley committed the last of his eight turnovers when he threw an inbounds pass intended for Ewing out of bounds. The Knicks' fate was sealed.
"I just didn't catch the ball," Davis said. "I was ready to shoot before I caught it. It went right through my hands. It was a perfect pass by Patrick. It's my fault. No excuses."
The Knicks committed 26 turnovers for the game, succumbing to the Pacers' intense defensive pressure.
Some of the turnovers were forced. Others were careless.
The mistakes were too much for New York to overcome, especially because Reggie Miller went wild for the first time in the series, leading all scorers with 31 points, including 17 of 19 from the free-throw line.
Miller had a 13-point fourth quarter, sparking a 10-2 run that turned a 70-70 game into an 80-72 Pacers lead with 2:45 left to play, a deficitfrom which New York never recovered.
Neither Starks nor Derek Harper nor Greg Anthony could contain Miller. And coach Pat Riley elected not to put Davis on Miller.