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Uptempo Pacers Have the Answers for Weary Knicks

NBA playoffs: New York loses, 102-88, to prolific Indiana, two days after ousting low-scoring Miami.


INDIANAPOLIS — In the state that gave basketball the racehorse game, not to mention the choke hold, the Indiana Pacers speeded up the New York Knicks' world and complicated their lives anew.

Two days after they had finished digging themselves out of a 3-2 series deficit against the Miami Heat, the Knicks lost, 102-88, Tuesday night and dropped into a 1-0 hole in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals, surrendering 14 more points than they had in any of their other 10 playoff games this spring.

Indiana hit them with a 35-point first period. Four Pacers got 16 points or more, including reserve Austin Croshere, who had a career playoff high in outscoring Marcus Camby, whose 18.8 points a game finished off the Pacers last spring, 22-4.

"They were a very, very good offensive team last year," said Knick Coach Jeff Van Gundy, "but they're by far the best offensive team in the East. Their second unit is very good because everybody can shoot the ball and put it on the floor and make a play."

The Knicks were lucky just to keep their eyes open.

They only had one day off after winning in Miami Sunday and spent it flying here, having gone home from Florida to pick up clean clothes and sigh their sighs of relief.

Meanwhile, the Pacers, who had ousted the Philadelphia 76ers Friday, had an extra two days to rest and revive the pain of their '99 Eastern finals defeat as the second seed to the lowly No. 8 Knicks.

Allan Houston, the Knicks' leading scorer, was still bothered by a sore ankle that slowed him in Game 7 in Miami. Chris Childs, who had been one of the Game 7 heroes playing while he was ill, felt even sicker.

Thus it was only a surprise to Van Gundy that the Pacers hit them with everything in their arsenal to start the game, running up a 35-17 lead after the first quarter.

"That's no excuse," said Van Gundy of his team's fast turnaround. "I mean, they [Pacers] got their job done earlier than we did [in the second round.] They were ready to play. We wasted a quarter and when you waste a quarter in this league, you get beat."

The surprise was, the Knicks came back.

With Latrell Sprewell (22 points) zipping around Jalen Rose, and Patrick Ewing (21), looking years younger than he did in the last series, now that his back feels better and he only has sore-footed Rik Smits to deal with instead of ferocious Alonzo Mourning, they cut it to 52-48 at halftime and 68-66 midway through the third quarter.

At that point, the pace was furiously un-Eastern. Charlie Ward made a three-point basket to bring the Knicks within two points.

Moments later, Rose responded with a three-pointer to make it 71-66.

Then Sprewell got to the basket on a drive and threw down a thunderous dunk to make it 71-68.

Six seconds later, Mark Jackson, bringing the ball up, hit Rose behind the Knick defense, for a dunk to make it 73-68.

After that, the Knicks slid away.

Not that the Pacers can depend on them staying down.

"It's going to be a long series," said Indiana's Reggie Miller, the veteran of five other Knick series. "It's going to be a dogfight.

"I somewhat expected us to win this one. I'm more worried about Thursday's game because they'll have time to rest. . . . Van Gundy's excellent at making adjustments."

The Pacers have averaged a very un-Eastern 103.2 points in the last five games Miller has played (he was suspended for Game 5 against the 76ers).

Van Gundy, the great adjuster, just came out of a series in which there was one score in the 90s and five in the 70s, including an overtime game in which both teams were in the 70s.

It's going to seem like someone is fast-forwarding his scouting tape but it's a new series and a new, faster-paced challenge.

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