Knicks–Pacers rivalry: Wikis


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During the 1990s, both the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers were perennial playoff teams. The Knicks, led by All-Star center Patrick Ewing, met with the Reggie Miller-led Pacers in the playoffs six times from 1993 to 2000, fueling a rivalry epitomized by the enmity between Miller and prominent Knicks fan Spike Lee. The bitter rivalry was likened by Miller to the Hatfield-McCoy feud,[1] and described by The New York Times, in 1998 as being "as combustible as any in the league".[2]

The rivalry has given Miller the nickname "The Knick Killer".[3][4] Miller's clutch performances were frequently followed by jabs at Lee, adding fuel to the greater team rivalry.


1993 NBA Playoffs First Round: First Meeting

The two teams first met in postseason play in the first round of the 1993 NBA Playoffs. The Knicks, led by Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Doc Rivers, and Coach of the Year Pat Riley had amassed a 60-22 record-the best in the Eastern Conference-and earned the top seed in the East.[5] The Pacers, with Miller, the "Dunkin' Dutchman" Rik Smits, versatile Detlef Schrempf, and Dale Davis barely squeaked into the playoffs with a 41-41 record, thanks to the tiebreaker over the Orlando Magic.[6] The Knicks won the first two games at Madison Square Garden before the Pacers won the first of two contests at Market Square Arena. The Knicks, however, took Game 5 and advanced to defeat the Charlotte Hornets before bowing out to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. (The playoff format had a best-of-five first round until 2003.) The Pacers would fire their head coach Bob Hill and hire the nomadic but legendary Larry Brown.

1994 Eastern Conference Finals: Miller Time

The Pacers would get their first chance of revenge against the Knicks the following year in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Brown had Schrempf traded for Derrick McKey and also added rookie forward Antonio Davis, veteran Byron Scott, and journeyman point guard Haywoode Workman. They finished with a record of 47–35 and the fifth seed in the East, winning the final eight games of the regular season. They swept Orlando and upset the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, winning in six games.[7]

Meanwhile, the Knicks, following Jordan's first retirement, were heavily favored to win the East. Rivers was lost for the season with a knee injury in December, but the Knicks were able to acquire Derek Harper from the Dallas Mavericks to replace him. Despite winning the Atlantic Division, they lost the top seed in the East to the Hawks; both teams finished 57–25 and split the season series 2–2, but the Hawks won the tiebreaker. The Knicks beat the New Jersey Nets three games to one, then they finally beat the Bulls in a seven game series to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Pacers were waiting.[8]

Both teams won each of their first two home games (the Knicks won Games 1 and 2, the Pacers Games 3 and 4). However, in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Miller became a household name on June 1, 1994 when he scored 39 points total and 25 in the fourth quarter of the Pacers' 93–86 victory at Madison Square Garden. Miller made several long three-pointers during the quarter and engaged in an animated discussion of his ongoing performance with Spike Lee, who was seated courtside. The win gave the Pacers a 3–2 series lead over the Knicks, but the Pacers lost the next two games and thus the series. Patrick Ewing scored the decisive points off a put back dunk in game 7 with just 30 seconds on the clock. After the last second win in game 5, the New York Daily News ran a cover story with Lee's picture and the headline, "Thanks A Lot Spike."

1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals: The Knick Killer

By virtue of the previous year's seven game series between the two teams, the Knicks and Pacers were now rivals, but the Pacers had yet to answer their foe's last two playoff series wins. The Pacers addressed their need for a point guard by acquiring then-former Knick Mark Jackson from the Los Angeles Clippers. The returning Pacers also stepped up their game. Smits enjoyed his best NBA season, averaged career highs of 17.9 points and 7.7 rebounds, Miller continued to lead the team with 19.6 points per game with a .415 three-point percentage (15th in the league) and a .897 free throw percentage (4th in the league) and was a starter in the 1995 NBA All-Star Game and member of the All-NBA Third Team. Derrick McKey played both the third scorer and provider of intangibles, placing third on the team in both scoring and rebounding, second in assists, and first in steals, earning a spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Winning the first division title and achieving its first 50-win season since joining the NBA from the ABA with a record of 52-30, the second-seeded Pacers swept the Hawks in the first round.[9]

The Knicks, fresh from the previous year's Finals appearance, worked hard for a return to the Finals. Forward Anthony Mason, eventually named the 1995 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 9.9 points and 8.4 rebounds, while Ewing (top 10 in scoring, rebounding, and shotblocking), Starks (15.3 points per game), and others would put up their usually efficient production. Placing second in the Atlantic Division to the Magic with a 55-27 record and the third seed, the Knicks would dispatch of the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.[10] With the better record, the Knicks had home court advantage over the Pacers again, setting the stage for another memorable series.

In Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, it was Miller Time again as Reggie Miller amazingly scored 8 points in the final 16.4 seconds: a three-pointer followed by an interception of the Knicks' inbounds pass and another three-pointer and two free throws, erasing a 6-point Knicks lead and stealing the victory, 107-105. The stunned Knicks would settle for a two-game home split (96-77), but the Pacers would win the next two at Market Square Arena by scores of 97-95 and 98-84. The Knicks would escape Game 5, 96-95, and win Game 6 on the road, 92-82, but the Pacers would prevail in Game 7 at the Garden, 97-95, after Ewing missed a potential-tying driving layup as time expired. Knicks Head Coach Riley resigned the day after the Finals ended, and Don Nelson, having recently stepped down from the Golden State Warriors head coaching position, soon became Riley's successor.

1998 Eastern Conference Semifinals

After a three year hatius, the two teams renewed their rivalry in the 1998 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Unlike the two teams previous meetings, the Indiana Pacers were heavy favorites. The New York Knicks were without their star center Patrick Ewing who suffered a wrist injury early in the regular season. Ewing returned to the Knicks line-up in game 2, but was not 100%. The Knicks managed to make the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks upset the second seeded Miami Heat in five games in their first round match-up, while the Pacers disposed of the sixth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers 3-1.

Indiana won games 1 and 2 at Market Square Arena to take a 2-0 lead. At home in game 3 the Knicks were able to bounce back and win 83-76 behind a strong performance by Ewing, who finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds, and a strong defensive effort. Game 4 was a sharp contrast from the defensive struggle of the first three games of the series. The two teams engaged in a high scoring affair that the Pacers ended up winning 118-107 behind another strong performance by Reggie Miller at Madison Square Garden. Miller finished with 38 points. Indiana also got strong performances firm Rik Smits (23 points and 8 rebounds), Mark Jackson (16 points 15 assist) and Chris Mullin (18 points and 5 steals). Indiana was able to clinch the series in a 99-88 win in game 5 despite a strong performance from New York guard Allan Houston.

1999 Eastern Conference Finals

In the lockout shortened 1998–99 NBA season, the New York Knicks had a disappointing regular season despite having a healthy Patrick Ewing and the addition of talented guard Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby. However, New York was able to sneak into the playoffs as the eigh and final seed with a 27-23 record. The Indiana Pacers finished as the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 33-17 record, and were considered by many to be the favorites to win the Eastern Conference with the break up of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The eighth seeded Knicks were able to knock off first seeded Miami for the second year in a row after Allan Houston made the game winning shot in game five that bounced off the front of the rim, off the backboard, and into the hoop. This was only the second time in NBA history that a number eight seed beat a number one seed in the first round. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Knicks stunned the Atlanta Hawks, sweeping them 4-0. Meanwhile the Indiana Pacers were on a roll in the playoffs, sweeping both the seventh seeded Milwaukee Bucks 3-0. and the sixth seeded Philadelphia 76ers 4-0.

The Knicks won game one on the road 93-90 behind strong performances from Ewing, Sprewell, Houston, and Larry Johnson. The Pacers settled for a split at Market Square Arena, defeating New York 88-86 in Game 2. However, the bigger loss for the Knicks appeared to be the loss of Ewing to an achilles heel injury. Ewing was out for the rest of the playoffs. However, with the series heading to New York the Knicks played inspired basketball. New York won game 3 92-91 behind strong performances from Johnson (26 points and 8 rebounds) and Camby (21 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 steals). The Pacers won game 4 at Madison Square Garden 90-78 behind strong performances off the bench from Jalen Rose and Antonio Davis. With the series tied 2-2, game five in Indiana, and the Knicks without star center Patrick Ewing, New York's Cinderella run appeared to be inevitably over. But the Knicks again played inspired in game five, and won 101-94 at Market Square Arena despite a strong 30 point performance from Miller, to take a 3-2 lead heading back to New York. New York was anchored by strong performances from Sprewell (29 points) and Camby (21 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 block shots). The Knicks suffered yet another blow in game 6, with Larry Johnson going down with an injury early in the first half. But with strong performances from Houston (32 points) Sprewell (20 points), and a strong defensive effort on Pacer star Reggie Miller (Miller was limited to 8 points on 3 of 18 shooting), New York beat Indiana 90-82 to clinch the series 4-2. With their victory, the Knicks became the first eighth seeded team to reach the NBA Finals. As of today, the 1999 New York Knicks remain the only eighth seeded team to reach the Finals.

2000 Eastern Conference Finals

The Pacers finished the regular season 56-26, clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers were pushed to the limit in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Ray Allen. In a decisive game 5, Reggie Miller scored a career playoff high 41 points to win the series. After beating Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers in six games, the Pacers had once again reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Knicks, the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, swept the sixth seed Toronto Raptors in three games. The Knicks were once again matched up against the Miami Heat, and won the series in seven games.

The Pacers, having home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs, won the first two games against the Knicks in their first year at the newly constructed Conseco Fieldhouse. Returning to New York, the Knicks evened up the series at two games a piece by winning the following two games at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers won the next game at home, and then the decisive game six behind Reggie Miller's game-high 34 points, (5-7 from downtown). Reggie scored 17 points in the fourth quarter (3-3 from downtown) as the Pacers advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in NBA history.[11]


The Knicks reached the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999 (incidentally, after Michael Jordan's first and second retirements, respectively), but were defeated both times. In 1994 by the Houston Rockets in seven games, though they were up 3-2 in the series, and in 1999 in an uneventful five games by the San Antonio Spurs. The Knicks loss in the 1994 finals denied New York City the distinction of having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year, as their home court hosted the Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years following their win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals while the series was in New York. (The Rockets had home court advantage during the 1994 Finals).

The Pacers finally reached the NBA finals by defeating the Knicks in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, eventually losing to the Lakers in the Finals. The playoff battles between these two franchises led to some of the greatest moments in NBA playoff history, such as Larry Johnson's four-point play in the waning seconds of Game Three of 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, Miller's 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game Five of 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, and Miller's eight points in the last 16 seconds to win Game One of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Despite the trash-talk, Miller was featured in a cameo in the 1998 film He Got Game, directed by Spike Lee.


  1. ^ Brown, Clifton. "Give Miller a Hand? Not in This Rivalry", The New York Times, January 24, 1997. Accessed January 27, 2008. "Reggie Miller compares the Knicks-Indiana Pacers rivalry to the Hatfields vs. the McCoys."
  2. ^ Wise, Mike. " THE N.B.A. PLAYOFFS; For Combustibility, It's Knicks-Pacers", The New York Times, May 5, 1998. Accessed January 27, 2008. "From head-butts to hideous trash talk, from Miller versus John Starks, the Pacers-Knicks rivalry has been as combustible as any in the league."
  3. ^ Rhoden, William C. "Sports of The Times; Miller Leaves Calling Card For Knicks", The New York Times, June 3, 2000. Accessed January 28, 2008. "His three fourth-quarter 3-pointers accomplished something that no other team -- no other player -- had accomplished during this year's playoffs. Those shots took the Knicks' will. Miller revived his imprimatur as the Knick-killer. He ended a season and may well have ended a Knicks era."
  4. ^ Brown, Clifton. "1995 N.B.A. PLAYOFFS; Knicks Sweat It Out Until End but Force Game 6", The New York Times, May 18, 1995. Accessed January 28, 2008. "And Reggie Miller, the Knick-killer, still had one more scare for New York, even after what turned out to be Ewing's game-winning shot."
  5. ^ 1992-93 New York Knicks Game Log and Scores.
  6. ^ 1992-93 Indiana Pacers Game Log and Scores.
  7. ^ 1993-94 Indiana Pacers Game Log and Scores.
  8. ^ 1993-94 New York Knicks Game Log and Scores.
  9. ^ 1994-95 Indiana Pacers Game Log and Scores.
  10. ^ 1994-95 New York Knicks Game Log and Scores.
  11. ^ Reggie Miller vs the Knicks - Playoff Timeline


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