"It ain't over," Charles Oakley was saying. "They still have to win four." If the words sounded a little hollow, maybe it's because the Knicks have yet to win one in Indiana.
The Pacers, long shots going into the NBA playoffs, are favored today to reach the final tonight by finishing off the Knicks in Market Square Arena, where Indiana is 6-0 this post-season and New York is 0-2.
The home-court advantage the Knicks held through the first three rounds against New Jersey, Chicago and the Pacers dissolved Wednesday night in a 93-86 loss to Indiana that gave the Pacers a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final.
"Everyone kept saying we had to win a road game; now we really do," the Knicks' Hubert Davis said.
The problem for the Knicks is this: They have won only one of seven road playoff games. One of those losses set an NBA record _ the playoff-low 68 points scored in a 20-point loss at Indianapolis Saturday.
Reggie Miller was the unquestioned star for the Pacers on Wednesday. His 25 points in the fourth quarter (39 in the game) catapulted Indiana back from a 12-point deficit at the start of the period. The Pacers' 35 points in the fourth were the most allowed in a period by New York in 16 playoff games.
Along the way, Miller sank a playoff-record five three-pointers, surpassing the mark of four set earlier in these playoffs by Portland's Terry Porter and Houston's Vernon Maxwell.
"He had a Michael Jordan-like quarter," Knicks coach Pat Riley said.
Thursday, Miller was low-key about his performance.
"The Knicks will be back," he said. "We can't think they're going to go away. We don't want to go back to New York, and the only way we will is if we relax and think we have this thing won. We've worked so hard to get ourselves into the position we're in, and it would be a shame if we let it get away from us."
The Pacers were welcomed home at the airport Thursday by about 3,000 fans _ at 3 a.m.
"It was crazy, the reaction," center Rik Smits said. "It was great to see that kind of support. I'm sure it will have a good result on the team, along with the support we're getting from the home crowd."
Miller's explosive showing Wednesday hardly masked the Knicks' ineptitude at crunch time (New York had outscored the opposition in 12 of the previous 15 fourth quarters in the playoffs). Consider that the Knicks:
Didn't hit a field goal in the first 7:05 of the quarter.
Hit only two in the first 11:58.
Scored only two points in a span of 3:26 after closing within 81-79 with 4:11 to play.
Turned the ball over nine times in the quarter, including six successive possessions.
"Maybe this is the way it has to be," Riley said when asked if he believed the Knicks could overcome this latest adversity. "I have a feeling about this team; I simply believe we're going to get it done."
"Call me crazy, but I'm confident that we can do it," added the Knicks' Charles Smith, who had eight of his 16 points in the third quarter but none in the fourth. "It's going to be a lot of work, a lot of work, but I believe we can get it done. We haven't lost it yet."
There is a difference between the Knicks of a year ago _ they saw the Bulls steal Game 5 of the conference final at Madison Square Garden and lost Game 6 in Chicago _ and this team, Riley said. "Experience. That's why we can get it done this time.
"I think the mindset simply has to be that we have to get it in our minds that we are going to accomplish what we want to accomplish. Sometimes when you are down, going to the other team's arena, you don't think you have much of a shot," Riley added. "But we have got to eradicate any kind of thinking like that."
_ Material from Associated Press was used in this report.