INDIANAPOLIS - There came a point when it appeared that the New York Knicks' strategy was to keep daring Austin Croshere to shoot.
The more they dared, the more the 6-foot-10 reserve made the Knicks look foolish.
Croshere scored a team-high 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting and Dale Davis added 14points and 16rebounds as the Indiana Pacers opened the Eastern Conference finals with a wire-to-wire, 102-88 victory last night.
The Knicks, accustomed to focusing on just one or two offensive threats in the first two rounds against the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat, 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."
Six Pacers reached double figures, including all five starters. Reggie Miller finished with 19 and Jalen Rose added 17 as Indiana, which built a 19-point second-quarter lead, made 10 of 15 three-pointers.
Croshere, who was on Indiana's playoff roster last year but appeared in only one game, knocked down four of five from behind the arc."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."
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 three-pointer by Croshere that gave them a 14-point lead, and Croshere got them to 100, too, on a three-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. 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.
Sprewell led the Knicks with 22, but scored only one point in the fourth quarter. Patrick Ewing added 21, and Allan Houston, playing on a sore left ankle, finished with 18.
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."
The Knicks, after trailing by 19 in the first half, were down 52-50 and had a chance to draw even, but Sprewell dribbled his way into a shot-clock violation.
Rose, held scoreless in the first half while missing five shots, hit the first of his three straight jumpers and when Jackson fed Davis for a dunk, Indiana's lead was nine.
Ewing's turnaround started a 9-2 run but after Charlie Ward's three-pointer got the Knicks to within 68-66, Jackson answered with a three.
Sprewell then drove the lane for a vicious slam but momentarily lost his composure. While busy taunting Rose, Sprewell allowed the Pacers' small forward to beat him down the floor for an easy dunk.
The Knicks trailed 78-71 at the start of the fourth, and with Ewing on the bench, they made one of their first five shots, committed one turnover and eventually fell behind 85-74 with 7:28 left.
When Ewing returned, he had his first shot shoved back in his face by Davis, and then after Sprewell bricked a three, Croshere made a three that made it a 14-point game.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.