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

href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199505070NYK.html"

target="_blank">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

href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199505210NYK.html"

target="_blank">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

href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199406010NYK.html"

target="_blank">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.