It’s been almost a week since the Knicks’ painful postseason exit occurred in Madison Square Garden in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers.
It was an incredible, entertaining, back-and-forth series reminiscent of the years and generations of these franchises. 

It seems that whenever New York and Indiana are pitted against each other in the playoffs, legendary moments are born, stars are budding, and a historically storied rivalry continues to grow.

History has a tendency to repeat itself, and twenty years after the Knicks-Pacers rivalry thrived for season upon season in the 90s, and ten years after they met again in a bitter postseason exit for the Knicks, their playoff rivalry has lived again with a chippy, thrilling, and classic playoff matchup here in this year of 2024.


Let’s examine the history of their rivalry, how it’s been passed down from generation to generation, and why it’s truly one of the greatest in basketball. 


The Beginning – The 90s

In the 1990s, Patrick Ewing and John Starks led to the Knick’s years of competitiveness and thrilling playoff runs. Throughout the run, they repeatedly ran into one familiar foe: the Indiana Pacers. From 1993 to 2000, the teams met each other a shocking six times in the playoffs. The clash was born in 1993 when New York and Indiana faced off in the playoffs’ first round. This was when the first round was a best of 5 game series, as opposed to the current day best-of-seven format for all rounds.

The Knicks won the first two games at the Garden, grabbing a commanding 2-0 series lead. However, in game 3, Reggie Miller scored 36 points in a heated matchup in Indiana, and tensions between the two sides reached a boiling point in the third quarter when John Starks headbutted Miller.

The Knicks would go on to win that series in four games.


After the series, Starks spoke on Reggie Miller and said that he “ran out of gas” at the end of the series and that:

“He was talking earlier, you know, Reggie. But he didn’t say anything in the end.”


While it was only a short four-game series, it marked the birth of the years of bitter rivalry that have followed.

Reggie Time

In the following season of 1993-1994, arguably the most iconic moment in the rivalry occurred as the two sides faced off in an electric second-round series. As the Knicks entered the fourth quarter of game 5 with a 12-point lead, they looked poised to take a 3-2 series lead at the Garden. However, Reggie Miller then famously went off for 25 points in the final period. He made the iconic choke sign at Knicks superfan Spike Lee, an image now engraved in NBA culture and history, as he led the Pacers to a 93-86 victory. However, the Knicks would bounce back to take games 6 & 7 of that series, advancing to the Conference Finals and eventually to the NBA Finals, where they lost in 7 games.

The next meeting was in the 1995 Eastern Semifinals, as the teams faced off for the third consecutive year. The final seconds of game 1 were the most iconic of this matchup, as Reggie Miller delivered another incredible clutch performance at Madison Square Garden in a comeback effort. With the Knicks up by six with 18.7 seconds left, it looked like a done deal that they would take a 1-0 series lead. But things quickly took a turn as Miller buried a three to make it a one-possession game. Then, off a turnover in the following inbound, Miller knocked down another from beyond the arc to tie it up. Then, after John Starks missed two free throws that could have given New York the lead, Miller was fouled and knocked down two free throws to win it for Indiana, capping off his famous 8 points in 8.9 seconds. The Pacers would go on to defeat the Knicks in 7 games to advance to the ECF.

The teams avoided each other in 1996 and 1997, but history repeated itself as they met in 1998, once again in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. When asked before the series about the possible physicality, Miller said, “There’s gonna be a lot of thugging going on.” After falling behind 2-0, the Knicks were close to evening up the series at two games a piece at the Garden, but once again, Reggie Miller took over with an iconic moment on the Knick’s home court. A game-tying shot to force overtime would lead to the Pacers taking a commanding 3-1 series lead, and they would go on to win the series in five games. 

The Four-Point Play

The 1999 season was shortened to a lockout, and while the Pacers made it into the postseason comfortably at the number two seed, the Knicks, who had lost mainstay pieces of their iconic 90s team, John Starks and Charles Oakley, managed to scrape into the playoffs at the eighth seed. However, the rivalry was renewed yet again, as the teams managed to find their way to each other in the playoffs again, this time in the Eastern Conference Finals. After two tight games in Indiana to start the series, it was tied 1-1 heading to the Garden.

A huge injury blow hit the Knicks, as Patrick Ewing was ruled out for game three. He succumbed to his Achilles injury, which he somehow played through in game 2—in game three, one of the most iconic moments in Knicks franchise history occurred to give them a 2-1 series lead: the four-point play.

Down 91-88 in the final seconds, Larry Johnson heaved up a three-pointer. The whistle blew, and the shot blew the roof off the Garden. Johnson would sink the free throw to give the Knicks the lead, and they would hang on to win 92-91. The Pacers would take game 4 to tie up the series, but the Knicks rolled to victories in games 5 and 6, advancing to the NBA Finals, becoming the first 8-seed in NBA history to do so. 

The End of An Era

In 2000, these teams would meet once more to mark the end of this incredible era of the New York-Indiana rivalry. Before the series began, Reggie Miller stated his opinion on the Knicks simply and plainly, saying, “I hate them.” It would be a thrilling back-and-forth matchup once again, and in game 6, the Pacers held a 3-2 lead as the Knicks looked to keep their season alive at the Garden.

In his final game with New York, Ewing scored 18 points and 12 rebounds to keep his team alive. Sprewell had 32, but no other Knicks player scored more than 10 points as they fell to the Pacers 93-80. This marked the end of the Knicks and Pacers’ iconic ’90s rivalry, with neither team ever winning a championship in the stretch but countless iconic moments coming to be, year after year. 


2013

It would be over a decade before the rivalry between these two franchises was renewed again. 2013, the old foes met again, with new generations of players headlining the teams for an entertaining second-round series. For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony led the team. Their most successful season since 2000 consisted of them finishing 50-32 as the second seed in the East.

After defeating the Celtics in six games in the first round, they faced a matchup with the three-seeded Indiana Pacers, led by a budding star in Paul George. Unfortunately for New York, it was a six-game defeat at the hands of Indiana, with the final game finishing in highly entertaining fashion in a 106-99 Indiana victory. 


Renewed Once Again

It was once again over a decade before the rivalry renewed itself. Still, it returned in grand fashion in this year’s playoffs with the resurgent, two-seeded New York Knicks meeting the six-seeded Indiana Pacers. It also returned to relevancy in the second round of the NBA Playoffs once again. The Knicks, of course, led by start point guard Jalen Brunson, led his team into battle against the young Pacers, led by their star guard, Tyrese Haliburton. In game 2, a legend of the 90s rivalry mentioned above, Reggie Miller, broadcasted the game for TNT, expectedly bringing about even more of a plethora of controversy for the matchup.

Before the game began, when asked if he was worried about returning to New York to call the game, Miller said, “I’ve owned this city,” sparking an apparent backlash from the Knicks faithful. In the final seconds of the game, with the Knicks on the verge of victory, “F*ck you Reggie” chants broke out in the Garden crowd, and Knicks fan favorite Josh Hart walked up to the broadcast crew and clarified to Miller what the crowd was saying. Unfortunately, The Knicks would relinquish their 2-0 series lead before going up 3-2 but then losing two consecutive games, ending their magical season.

It was a war of attrition for New York, with important player after important player going down, to the point where they finished the series missing four starters. The series’ first three games were down-to-the-wire thrillers, but the remainder were all blowouts. Overall, it is another highly entertaining series to add to the history between these two teams.

The Beauty of the Madness

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this rivalry’s history is its continuity—from year to year and generation to generation. In this year’s playoffs, it’s been eleven years since the teams last matched up and twenty-four years since the conclusion of their iconic 90s rivalry.

Despite all the time that had passed, between the game 2 Reggie Miller controversy, the Knicks legends of old at the Garden every single game, and so much more.


It’s clear that these players who represented New York and Indiana all these years later recognize that this perpetuates a tale as old as time, a storied rivalry told over and over and once again renewed and revitalized in a new era of basketball for both cities; it’s Knicks-Pacers. 

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