On this day 24 years ago, Reggie Miller defied New York.
The Knicks and Pacers were to meet again in the 1995 NBA Playoffs, their third-straight postseason meeting, this time in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. New York won the first two series and looked poised to take an early lead in the 1995 iteration, up 105-99 with 18.7 seconds to play in Game 1 in Madison Square Garden.
Miller caught an inbounds pass from the sideline, turned and quickly rattled the rim for a three to bring the Pacers within a possession with 16.4 seconds remaining. Knicks forward Anthony Mason muffled the ensuing inbound, and the ball found itself right back in Miller’s hands. He rushed behind the three-point line and put up another triple, this time fading away. It dropped, and with that, Miller had scored six points in 5.7 seconds to tie the game at 105.
But the choke wasn’t complete yet. The Knicks got the ball in play, and Indiana forward Sam Mitchell swiftly fouled New York guard John Starks, gifting them two at the line.
“I was kind of like in shock that this thing happened,” Starks said in a video with ESPN in 2018. “At the time that I’m walking to the free-throw line, I’m thinking like, ‘Man, did this dude just did this?’”
A true choke wouldn’t be complete without missed free throws.
His first shot hit the front, then the back of the rim before bouncing back toward a tepid Starks, his lean begging for a divine intervention that never came. His second shot was worse, clanking the front of the iron, the ball cascading onto a mountain of arms before being crowdsurfed directly into Patrick Ewing’s paws. But even Ewing bricked the 10-foot putback, and none other than Miller pulled down the rebound and was immediately fouled by Starks.
With 7.5 seconds left, Miller coolly sank both free throws to give the Pacers a 107-105 lead. With no timeouts, Knicks guard Greg Anthony rushed the ball up the court while Miller stayed in front. Anthony drove right but tripped and fell as the final seconds rolled off the clock. From the floor, he flipped the ball to Ewing, but it was too late: Miller’s eight points in 8.9 seconds gave Indiana first blood.
“We knew we had to get a three, we were down by six,” Miller recapped on the floor after the game. “We got a quick three on that, we knew they had no timeouts, so we had to pressure the ball. We overplayed Anthony. Mason choked and gave it to me. We almost cost the game when we made that foul, but John Starks choked. We came up big … we feel we can sweep this team.”
New York Knicks-Indiana Pacers rivalry: Indiana would go on to win the 1995 series 4-3, avenging a Game 7 loss to the Knicks in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and a 3-1 defeat to New York in the 1993 Eastern Conference First Round. Those first three series sparked a fierce rivalry that would be renewed a few years later with another three-straight meetings in the 1998-2000 NBA Playoffs, including the Eastern Conference Finals in 1999 and 2000. The next and most recent postseason meeting came in 2013 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, ending in a 4-2 Pacers win, giving Indiana a 4-3 edge in playoff series won against its rival.
1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals: After choking away Game 1, the Knicks rebounded with a 96-77 win in Game 2, ruining Miller’s prediction of a sweep. But home court had been lost, and Indiana took advantage, sending the series back to New York with a 3-1 lead. This time it was Indiana’s turn to lose a game late. Down by one, Ewing hit a floater in the lane to give the Knicks a 96-95 lead with 1.8 seconds to play that would be the difference, bringing New York within a game. The Knicks extended the series further with a 25-point, 15-rebound showing from Ewing in a 92-82 win. Again, the teams returned to New York, but now with all momentum in the home team’s favor. But the Pacers broke Knicks hearts in MSG one more time, moving to the Eastern Conference Finals by a slim 97-95 margin.
1995 Indiana Pacers: A 52-30 regular season gave the Pacers a Central Division title, the seventh-best winning percentage in the league and a two seed heading into the playoffs. Indiana made quick work of Atlanta in the first round, securing the 3-0 sweep with 24, 39 and 32-point performances from Miller in the three games, respectively. After dispatching of New York in the second round, the Pacers met top-seeded Orlando in the team’s second-straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance. After losing 4-3 to the Knicks in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana lost to the Magic 4-3 in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers came back to tie a 2-0 deficit and won Game 6 to even the series at 3-3, but another Game 7 loss ended their season and repeated the same heartbreak as a season before.