Turning back the clock to 1995: Pacers force Game 7 vs. Knicks at Madison Square Garden

The ghosts of 1990s NBA ball roam the halls of Madison Square Garden. It is a haunting and memorable era of the NBA.

Patrick Ewing. John Starks. Latrell Sprewell. Larry Johnson. Allan Houston. Greg Anthony. Mark Jackson. Reggie Miller. Pat Riley. Jeff Van Gundy. Larry Brown. Larry Bird. Mike Breen, too, who was the radio voice and then TV play-by-play guy for the Knicks. Spike Lee. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was a Knicks assistant.

The last Game 7 at the Garden was in 1995 — the New York Knicks against the Indiana Pacers — and the next game at the Garden will feature the same teams on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Another Game 7 in the 2024 playoffs? Sure. To borrow the catchphrase of Breen: “Bang!”

It’s possible because Indiana defeated New York, 116-103, in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series on Friday night.

The Pacers controlled the game and were never in danger of losing. Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Tyrese Haliburton had 15 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two blocks. Indiana shot 53.8% from the field and outscored New York in the paint 62-38.

There’s not much more to say about the game. It was not the Knicks’ night.

Myles Turner celebrates during the Indiana Pacers' win over the New York Knicks in Game 6.
Myles Turner celebrates during the Indiana Pacers' win over the New York Knicks in Game 6.

The home team has won every game of the series, and the home team is 112-37 in Game 7s. But the Knicks were the home team in 1995 against the Pacers and lost with Miller scoring 29 points. Ewing missed a finger roll with one second remaining in the fourth quarter. In 1994, the Knicks beat the Pacers in Game 7 at the Garden to reach the NBA Finals. There is history between the two teams.

Abundant storylines exist for the series finale, starting with the Knicks trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000 and the Pacers trying to get there for the first time since 2014.

The Knicks are battered, depleted by injuries and missing four rotational players — starters Julius Randle and OG Anunoby, and reserves Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Josh Hart is hurt, too, with what looks like a stomach muscle issue. He clutched his left abdominal area multiple times in Game 6.

Thibodeau is a Next Man Up proselytizer. Problem is, he’s running out of men.

"This is what you play for," Thibodeau said. "You love competition. ... Whatever it is we’re facing, we can overcome. Just keep battling."

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson’s star has only expanded in the playoffs with his spate of 30-point games, and even more responsibility falls on him in Game 7, especially with Hart less than 100%. But he needs help, too.

There is more pressure on the second-seeded Knicks than there is on the sixth-seeded Pacers. That doesn’t minimize the importance of getting to the conference finals for a young, offensive-minded team under Indiana coach Rick Carlisle. Haliburton emerged as an All-NBA-caliber guard, and it looks like Siakam is a part of Indiana’s future. Getting to the conference finals — and maybe even to the Finals – will advance the Pacers’ development.

The Pacers and Knicks in a Sunday afternoon game in the Garden in May. Sign me up. The energy created by the masses around Penn Station and inside Madison Square Garden is a unique New York experience, ghosts and all.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Indiana Pacers force NBA playoff Game 7 vs. New York Knicks