DAR Sports: NBA Classic Rivalries- New York Knicks vs Indiana Pacers

In basketball, some intense rivalries were built during the 80s and 90's. One of those rivalries that truly sticks out and is immortalized in history is the rivalry between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers. During the 90's, this was one of the most vicious Eastern Conference rivalries, if not the most vicious. Today, we take a look back at the rivalry that is the Knicks vs the Pacers.

Time and again, we see just how dope the 90's was. The rivalry between the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks was one of the best of my lifetime. They met five times in the playoffs during the 90s. That was the match-up people looked forward to.

Tension really began to build up between the teams in 1993. In the third quarter of game 3, trash-talking between Reggie Miller and John Starks was taken to a completely different level. Starks eventually head-butted Miller and got ejected from the game. New York was the victor of that series, but the games were far from over.

The following year, Michael Jordan retired (for the first time) so the Knicks were favored to win the East. Reggie Miller sealed the Pacers’ win in game 5 with 39 points under his belt. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to claim the title. Patrick Ewing showed up at the end of game 7 and the Knicks walked away with the win…again. Then 1995 came around and again the two teams met in the semi-finals.

The Pacers were at a place that they were determined to avenge themselves. Reggie Miller was called the “Knick-Killer” for his epic performance during this series. Indiana won that matchup 4-3.

The teams didn’t see each other again in the playoffs for three years. This time around, all bets were on the Pacers. Patrick Ewing broke his wrist early in the season, but was up to play against his rival. However, Ewing wasn’t completely himself because of the injury. Indiana took the crown that round.

The Knicks ended the 90s on a high note by defeating the Pacers again in the 1999 playoffs. They didn’t have much to be proud of in the regular season but they seemingly turned it up a notch in the finals. Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby were added to the roster alongside Ewing. Unfortunately, Patrick suffered another injury in a loss to the Pacers in game 2. In spite of that, the Knicks rallied together to become the first and only eighth seed team to reach the NBA Finals.

I know there’s no way to rewind time but just thinking about the competitiveness these teams showed  sends chills up and down my spine. Of course we’re in a different era now but it’s always good to reflect on the golden age, if you will. Truthfully, I’ll take those older games over some of what I see now.

The Knicks vs The Pacers was always an extremely fun rivalry to watch and they would put forth some of the best games and playoff series I had seen at the time. Reggie Miller, christened the Knick-Killer at one point, was always more intense for these games than nearly any other game he would play during the season or playoffs. While their regular season games were always entertaining, it would be their playoff games that truly made their rivalry great.

The 1993 playoffs was the moment it all began. The Knicks were the no. 1 seed and were the team to beat in the East. The Pacers had barely made it into the playoffs and would be led into the first round by Miller, Detlef Schrempf, Dale Davis and Rik Smits against a seasoned Knicks team of Ewing, Charles Oakley, Doc Rivers, John Starks and the legendary Pat Riley coaching. Now, the Knicks would control the series for the most part, but game 3 was where it all truly started, with Miller and Starks talking trash back and forth, and Starks ended up headbutting Miller an got ejected out of the game. That moment seemed to be the kick off for the intensity of the rivalry, as the Knicks beat the Pacers in the first round playoffs and send them home. The Pacers would have redemption on their mind and the next year would see them move some pieces around and come with a more efficient team.

The Pacers would finish the 1994 season as the 5th seed in the playoffs and after disposing of the Magic and Hawks, they would face the Knicks in the Conference Finals. The stakes were higher this time and the games would certainly reflect that. The Knicks would win the first two home games, and the Pacers would win their two home games for an even 2-2 series split so far. Game 5 would prove to be the most telling game between the two, as the three point shooting of Reggie Miller would be the dagger to give the Pacers a 3-2 lead over the Knicks as Miller would score 25 points in the 4th quarter and the Pacers would win the game. This was seen as the start of the Miller-Spike Lee feud, as they would talk trash to each other during the games, as Spike was a die hard Knicks fan. However, despite the theatrics of game 5, the Knicks would pull out a victory over the Pacers in a 7 game series to advance to the Finals. The rivalry would continue the next year in the Semifinals, this time with a different result.

The birth of the Knick-Killer. While the Knicks and Pacers were the 2nd and 3rd seed in the 1995 playoffs, the Pacers would steal the first game behind 8 points in the final 18 seconds from Reggie Miller for a 107-105 victory. This series would see the Pacers end up taking a 3-1 lead, only to have the Knicks win game 5 and 6 to force a game 7, and the Knicks almost won, but Patrick Ewing missed a last second layup, and the Pacers would advance to the Conference Finals. With that chapter closed, the Knicks and Pacers wouldn't meet again in the playoffs for a few years.

1998, the Knicks vs Pacers again in the Semifinals and this would have the same result as their last meeting, as the Pacers came into this series as the heavy favorites. Ewing was suffering from injury, but still managed to play throughout the series as the Pacers would win the first two games, the Knicks would win game 3, and the Pacers would pull out an OT victory on the Knicks in game 4. With the Knicks down 3-1, it didn't look good for them and game 5 was the final curtain as the Pacers would advance and defeat the Knicks. The first two playoff meetings saw the Knicks win, the next two saw the Pacers win. The very next year, in the 1999 Conference Finals, these two teams would meet again. Who would walk away with the victory?

The 1999 Conference Finals had some great moments, but none matches the game 3 winning 4 point play from Larry Johnson. It shifted the momentum in the Knicks favor and they would end up winning the series in 6 games to advance to the NBA Finals. As fate would have it, the very next year would see the teams meet in the 2000 Conference Finals, but the result would be different this time as the Pacers would close it out in 6, marking one of the last playoff series between the two teams. So, since 1993, you had the Knicks win two straight meetings, the Pacers win two meetings, the Knicks win another one, and the Pacers win another one. Now that shows how evenly matched these teams were and made for such a great rivalry. The Knicks and Pacers would do battle in this new era during the 2013 playoffs, as the Knicks finally managed to get out the first round for the first time in 13 years. The Semifinals matchup invoked memories of their prime rivalry, but this time the Knicks were led by Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, while the Pacers were led by Paul George and Roy Hibbert. New era, new faces, and despite the Knicks playing hard, the Pacers would take the series in 6 games. Regardless, the history between these two teams is storied and when we reflect on classic rivalries in the NBA history books, this one has to be acknowledged without a doubt.



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