INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers are bringing the coach of the year, their bald heads and a deep and dangerous team to the Eastern Conference finals.
Mark Jackson had the first triple-double in Pacers playoff history and Indiana finished off the New York Knicks 99-88 Wednesday night, taking an early lead and holding it for almost the entire game to win the second-round series 4-1.
"We do not get rattled, we make plays and we do not beat ourselves," Jackson said. "That's the way this team was built."
Next up is the franchise's first conference finals appearance since 1995 and a chance for Larry Bird to show off his minimalist method of coaching on an even bigger stage.
If the Chicago Bulls finish off the Charlotte Hornets in six games or less, the conference finals will begin Sunday at the United Center.
"We have a whole different attitude," said Rik Smits, who was with the Pacers when they lost in the conference finals in 1994 and 1995. "This year's team is a lot more confident. We're not happy just to be in the conference finals."
The Pacers will enter the next round knowing they have enough experience and depth to be a serious threat to reach the Finals. It was all on display against the Knicks as the Pacers got 22 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists from Jackson, 24 points from Reggie Miller, 22 from Smits and plenty of contributions from others.
They did it with their defense, too, holding New York without a basket for a six-minute stretch of the fourth quarter as they turned a 73-73 tie into an 87-75 lead.
By the time Patrick Ewing scored for New York to break the spurt with 1:43 left, it was too late for the Knicks.
"We have a little more added on this time," said Antonio Davis, another veteran of Indiana's playoff failures. "Instead of a cast of five or six, we have eight or nine guys who can really go out and play."
Smits shot 10-for-15 with nine rebounds, the Pacers outrebounded New York 46-34 and -- in the mark of a good passing team -- had assists on 23 of their 33 field goals.
For the Knicks, it was a disappointing end to a season that lasted longer and had more twists and turns than ever seemed possible back on Dec. 20 when Ewing went down with a fractured wrist.
He returned for this series and played adequately at times, but it was clear in Game 5 that he wasn't himself. Ewing shot 4-for-13 from the field and 2-for-8 from the line, and Allan Houston's 33 points weren't enough to carry the Knicks.
"Their whole team outplayed us," Ewing said, "but we still feel they're not a better team than we are."
In 1994 and 1995, the Knicks won games at Market Square Arena when they were on the brink of elimination. They couldn't do it this time, even though John Starks came close to guaranteeing a New York victory in Game 5.
"I think we put to rest them getting a lift from Patrick, and John Starks trying to be Joe Namath," Jackson said.
The Knicks trailed 68-61 entering the fourth, and they made a run against Indiana's reserves right away. Houston had two baskets, Larry Johnson had a three-point play and Chris Mills made a foul shot to pull New York to 70-69 just over two minutes into the fourth.
A putback by Ewing tied it at 73-73 with 7:39 left, but that would be the Knicks' last basket for awhile.
A layup by Antonio Davis started the decisive run, and Smits ended it with a jump hook and a short jumper that made it 87-75.
Houston scored 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting in the first half, but got little help from his teammates. Ewing was 0-for-5 from the field and 2-for-6 from the line with three turnovers, Starks was 1-for-4 from 3-point range and point guards Charlie Ward and Chris Childs were being burned defensively by Jackson.
Miller had 11 points and Jackson had nine assists for Indiana, which led for almost the entire first half but couldn't pull away to a double-digit lead. The score was 47-43 at intermission.
The Pacers appeared to take control for good midway through the third quarter as they went ahead by 11 on the way to a 68-61 lead entering the fourth.
Notes: Bird acknowledged before the game that a rift has developed between himself and Boston Celtics president Red Auerbach, whose likeness appears on the Coach of the Year award. Bird said the two haven't spoken in a long time, although "it's nothing major." ... Houston, who had scored a total of six points in the fourth quarters of the first four games, had 14 in the fourth quarter of this one. Many of them, however, came after Indiana had pulled away. Houston also played all 12 minutes of the third quarter but scored only one point. ... Indiana's Derrick McKey, who returned after missing a game with a quadricep injury, scored two points. ... Terry Cummings, who had backed up Ewing in Games 2, 3 and 4, did not play in Game 5. Chris Dudley got the job instead and did not score in six minutes.
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