By most accords, this was the most remarkable game-ending comeback in history to date; but if you ask Knicks diehards like movie director Spike Lee, it was the most gruesome game-ending comeback that no one would even dare to dream.
As most spectators began cheering and preparing to file out of MSG in celebration of the Knicks taking Game 1, Reggie Miller hits a 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left. Nothing too spectacular about that, I mean, it IS Reggie Miller. The next play, Miller steals the inbound pass and quickly jumps to the 3-point line and knocks down another three! Say, WHAT?! Now the game is tied at 105 with 13.3 seconds remaining. This man just scored 6 points in 3.1 seconds!
“We went numb after his second three. We became totally disoriented. It was like a terrible nightmare that you couldn’t wake up from. I still think about it today. I can laugh about it now. I wasn’t laughing then, that’s for sure,” former Knicks forward Anthony Mason recalls.
The Knicks finally get the ball inbounds to John Starks who is fouled immediately to stop the clock. Starks equals money, right? Apparently, we would ALL lose that bet. Starks misses not one, but BOTH attempts (I’m sure Miller thanked the basketball gods for that one).
We begin to see Miller’s arrogance as he begins taunting Lee, who was sitting in the first-row with the “choke” hand gesture. Miller is starting to feel himself as he knocks down two free-throws to give the Pacers a 2-point lead with 7.5 seconds left. In the final drive of the game, Greg Anthony makes one last attempt to save the day, but embarrassingly falls down en route to the basket. Talk about a comedic ending to a story.
Now, the part that headlines across the country displayed the next day, was the moment that Miller stated the claim that the Pacers will sweep the Knicks after being knocked out by New York in the previous two seasons, then proceeded to run down the locker room tunnel singing “CHOKE ARTISTS! CHOKE ARTISTS!,” an axiom that would be painted across the sports pages of the New York tabloids the following morning.
What makes this event so memorable is the steal. One thing we’re always taught in basketball to play the ENTIRE 48 minutes, no matter the circumstance. As Mason tried to find an open man, Miller was locking down Anthony. As Mason came closer to reaching his 5-second inbound limit he panicked after not being able to find an open teammate and forced it to a falling Anthony which allowed Miller to intercept and jump back five feet to 3-point land. “What shocked me was that Reggie had the presence of mind to not take a quick two-point shot and instead took one dribble and got back behind the 3-point line to shoot a three,” Larry Brown, the ex-Pacers coach, would say years later. “That takes an amazing athlete to do that, a guy who literally has ice in his veins, a guy who loves the pressure and is willing to face the consequences if he doesn’t make the shot.”
The consequences of Miller’s shot had a numbing impact on the Knicks franchise for several years thereafter:
1) The Knicks-Pacers series goes seven games, and Indiana winds up winning as Patrick Ewing – again – misses the pivotal shot, this time a driving lay-up that would have tied the game in the waning seconds.
2) Knicks head coach Pat Riley, devastated by the Game 1 and Game 7 defeats to Indiana, resigns. He is replaced by Don Nelson, who doesn’t even last a full season, despite having a multi-year contract. The series of events leaves the Knicks in disarray.
Meanwhile, Miller solidifies his reputation as one of history’s most feared long-range shooters, a fella who launches it from 25-30 feet without a hint of doubt.
CHEERS TO REGGIE!
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