Ominous anniversary for Knicks

Reggie Miller will be back at Madison Square Garden Tuesday
night when the New York Knicks face the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of
their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Fortunately for fans of the home team, Miller will be calling
the game for TNT, not coming off the Pacers’ bench.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be flashbacks,
especially for spectators who were in the same building
18 years ago to the day — I’m looking
at you, Spike Lee — when Miller scored eight points in 11 seconds
to cap off a haunting Knicks choke job that is still one of the
most stunning in NBA history.

The story, for those who didn’t watch the video, went
something like this:

The Pacers trailed the Knicks 105-99 with 18.7 seconds left in
Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals at MSG. Mark
Jackson inbounded the ball in the Pacers’ offensive end to
Miller, who hit a turnaround 3 to cut the lead to 105-102 with 16.4
seconds left.

Miller then stole the ensuing Knicks inbounds pass after Greg
Anthony — another onetime NBA on TNT broadcaster — tripped and
fell trying to get open. Miller then had the presence of mind to
take a step back behind the 3-point line and hit another jumper to
tie the game at 105-105 with 13.2 seconds to play. (Miller had been
1-for-5 from 3 before the back-to-back daggers.)

For reasons many Pacers fans still may not understand, Derrick
McKey fouled Knicks guard John Starks trying to steal the inbounds
pass after Miller’s second 3, but Starks, a career 76.9 percent
free throw shooter, clanked both free throws off the iron at the
other end of the court.

Patrick Ewing then missed a short put-back attempt after
snatching an offensive rebound, allowing Miller to grab the
following rebound and get fouled in the scramble. Then, with 7.5
seconds left, Miller, one of the most proficient free throw
shooters in NBA history, knocked down both of his attempts to give
the Pacers an improbable 107-105 lead.

Without a timeout to draw up a play, the Pat Riley-coached
Knicks had no choice but to come up with a game-saving shot on the
fly, but as he drove to the basket, Anthony stumbled and fell
again, and Indiana escaped with a 1-0 series lead.

Indiana would end up winning the series, capping it off with a
Game 7 win at MSG. And to this day, some
Knicks fans still blame the famous film director and MSG sideline
institution Lee for the collapse — in both Game 1 and, ultimately,
the series — given his taunting of Miller earlier in the fourth
quarter of Game 1 after a missed free throw.

They probably figured Spike would have known better after his
previous run-in with Miller, one year earlier, during
Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.
In that game, Miller scored 25 fourth-quarter points, jawing with
Lee the entire time, while the Pacers rallied from 12 down for a
93-86 win to take a 3-2 series lead.

New York would win Games 6 and 7 to ultimately take the 1994
series — though it would lose to Houston in seven games in
The Finals — but Spike was largely credited with the epic Game 5
meltdown.

Lee will undoubtedly be in his usual seat Tuesday night, and
it’s a safe bet that he’ll be running his mouth. But
with New York down 1-0 and needing to knot things up before the
series shifts to Indianapolis — and with Miller and his mojo
haunting the place — it might be in the Knicks’ best
interests for Spike to tone it down, just this once.