NEW YORK -- There was no Michael Jordan to haunt the New York Knicks in Game 5 this time, no blown layup opportunities by Charles Smith in the closing seconds. No, this time the nightmare came courtesy of Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller, who turned out to be Freddie Krueger and Jason all wrapped up into one.
Miller put on a spectacular fourth-quarter performance last night, scoring 25 points -- including an NBA-record 5-for-5 from three-point range -- as the Pacers handed the Knicks their first home playoff loss, 93-86, before a stunned sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The win ended an 11-game losing streak in New York by the Pacers, and gave Indiana a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. The Pacers will look to gain a berth in the NBA Finals tomorrow when they play host to the Knicks.
Miller finished with 39 points, as he hit 14 of 26 from the field. He was 8-for-9 in the fourth quarter, and his five three-pointers came during a 23-3 run that helped the Pacers overcome a 12-point deficit going into the period. Miller's last trey, wide open from the left corner, gave the Knicks an 81-73 lead with 5:53 left.
"I've probably had better shooting nights," Miller said. "But on the road, in the Garden, fifth game of the Eastern Conference finals . . . it ranks right up there."
Miller's 39 points were a career playoff high, and his 25 fourth-quarter points were just four shy of the NBA record set by Sleepy Floyd in 1987. Miller had had difficulty getting open shots in the first two games at the Garden, but almost everything he threw up in the fourth quarter last night -- whether he was wide open or had a player draped all over him -- went in.
"He had a Michael Jordan-type game, a Michael Jordan-type quarter," said New York Knicks coach Pat Riley. "He was totally unconscious."
Miller had to be that way on a night when Rik Smits scored just six points and grabbed two rebounds while being limited to 18 minutes.
Still, the Pacers enjoyed a 40-30 rebounding edge, and limited the Knicks to only four offensive rebounds (New York averaged 13.2 offensive boards in the series going into last night). Ewing scored 29 points but had only two rebounds. Charles Oakley had 12 points and 13 rebounds, but he seemed hampered by a sore left ankle.
The Knicks were sloppy, turning the ball over eight times during a fourth quarter in which they hit only three field goals. During one stretch Indiana backup center LaSalle Thompson stole three straight passes intended for Ewing.
"That hurt us," said Ewing, guilty of not establishing good position. "We need to play with more intensity. We have to stop turning the ball over and make the right plays."
Indiana was fortunate to be down only 43-35 at the half, having shot horribly from the free-throw line.
"At halftime we walked in the dressing room," Pacers coach Larry Brown said, "and the first thing Lester Conner said was 'We were three of 13 [23.1 percent] from the free-throw line, we had a terrible first quarter, and we're only down eight."
By the end of the third quarter Indiana trailed, 70-58. But 50 seconds into the fourth quarter, Miller hit a three-pointer, starting one of the most remarkable quarters in playoff history.
"Once they went with Hubert Davis and Greg Anthony, I knew I had them," Miller said, referring to the New York reserves who took turns guarding him early in the fourth.