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Ewing's miss rolls Knicks from playoffs

NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- When Patrick Ewing missed his last-second layup attempt, it was over for the New York Knicks. The game was over. Their season was over. Perhaps their last chance to win a championship in the Ewing era was over. And Pat Riley's career as Knicks coach may have been over, too.

In a shocking end to their season, the Knicks were beaten yesterday by the Indiana Pacers, 97-95, in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers will advance to the conference championship series against the Orlando Magic, beginning tomorrow.

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Where were the Knicks headed? Who knows? But for a team that set winning a championship as its goal, to lose in the conference semifinals represented a major step back, and it may have set the groundwork for an off-season of major change.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Knicks, who overcame so much, only to fall short. They erased a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series, and they erased a 15-point, third-quarter deficit in Game 7.

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But the final play will haunt Ewing and the Knicks. It came down to this: five seconds left and the Knicks inbounding at midcourt with New York trailing by two. Derek Harper passed to Ewing, who was standing near the foul line. Ewing looked toward John Starks, but then drove to his right past Derrick McKey down the lane. Indiana's defense parted, and Ewing kept going. He took off from midway down the lane and launched a shot he probably would make at least 95 times out of 100 -- a 2-foot, right-handed finger roll. It hit the back rim and fell away. Indiana's Dale Davis squeezed the rebound, the buzzer sounded and the Pacers began to celebrate. The Knicks were stunned.

Asked if this was the most disappointing loss of his career, Ewing said: "I think so. I thought I made a great move to get to the hole. I couldn't have dunked it -- I took off from too far. I thought it was in. I'm just very disappointed right now."

Ewing was not alone. And as the team's franchise player, to fall short once again of winning a title in his 10th season, Ewing had to wonder if his best chance for a championship already had passed him by.

Knicks guard Greg Anthony said: "It is very difficult. We were expecting to win this game. Quite honestly, we didn't get after them defensively like we should have."

As for Riley, he did not guarantee he would be back next season. Riley still has one year left on his five-year contract, but he has not signed a contract extension. His negotiations with Dave Checketts, the president of Madison Square Garden, have lasted more than a year. Riley has been offered a five-year, $15 million package, but he has yet to sign it, fueling speculation that he may not return.

Asked if he could say for sure that he would be back next year, Riley said: "I will sit down with Dand and talk. I haven't thought about a contract for a month.


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