For once, the Indiana Pacers answered every New York run down the stretch. Once it was a three-point play by Dale Davis that kept the Pacers in control. And then a pair of Jalen Rose jumpers. And then a three-point play by Antonio Davis.
Finally, with about four minutes to go and the Pacers leading the Knicks by 13, Madison Square Garden began to empty out as fans realized there would be no last-second heroics.
"We talked about that in the huddle," Rose said after Indiana's 90-78 victory over the Knicks Monday night tied the best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece. "A lot of people were getting up and leaving despite it being a 10-point game. We said if we get up a couple more, this place will be empty."
Had those fans stayed until the end, they would have seen one more indication that the Pacers may be about to take control of this series as it heads back to Indiana for Game 5 on Wednesday.
They would have seen Reggie Miller come alive. After a sleepy three games and after missing eight of his nine shots in the first three quarters of Game 4, Miller finally got going. He finished with just 12 points, but got seven of them in the final six minutes, including five in the final 73 seconds.
It was the first time in the series Miller had scored in the final five minutes of a game. The Pacers have proven they can win without him, but with him playing well, they may be close to unbeatable.
"I'm starting to feel better," Miller said. "I'm knocking on the door. It's just a matter of if someone's ever going to answer it. I keep telling the guys, it's almost like an overflowing dam. It's getting to the top and it's getting ready to burst."
The Pacers ran up a 13-point halftime lead even though their two best offensive players -- Miller and center Rik Smits -- didn't score a point. Smits played just 30 seconds before picking up his second foul, and Miller played just 11 minutes because of two fouls.
Still, the Pacers had no problem. They controlled the boards, were more patient offensively and took advantage of New York's terrible shooting. For the night, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston were a combined 14 of 35.
Knicks Coach Jeff Van Gundy said Sprewell would remain in the starting lineup at small forward for a second straight game. Van Gundy had benched forward Kurt Thomas and moved Sprewell into the lineup for Game 4 because he didn't want Thomas and Chris Dudley -- his two best defensive players against Smits -- on the court together.
He also believed Sprewell's slashing style would expose Chris Mullin as the 35-year-old veteran that he is. That strategy blew up in Van Gundy's face: It was Mullin who took advantage of Sprewell on his way to 18 points.
Sprewell was able to get around Mullin and get open shots, but he made just 6 of 14. Meanwhile, Sprewell couldn't stay with Mullin, who ran him through screens, constantly getting open and dumping in jumpers.
Sprewell tried to take charge of the game early by taking five shots in the opening five possessions. He made just two of those shots and went cold the rest of the half by missing 5 of 6. When the Knicks closed within seven in the second half, Sprewell was on the bench.
"We're just not making shots right now," Van Gundy said. "They're a better shooting team than we are, and if we're going to get into a shooting contest with them and not guard anybody, we're going to struggle."
Indiana's other key was Rose, the backup point guard who moved up in Coach Larry Bird's playing rotation because of an injury to Travis Best. Bird had publicly challenged Rose to play better than he had in the first three games of the series, and before Game 4 said Rose was "pouting."
Rose then went out and had a terrific game, scoring a team-high 19 points and grabbing six rebounds.
"Coach has been getting on him a little bit, and he came out and had the game of his life," Miller said. "I told him in the fourth quarter, he hit some of the biggest shots that I've seen him make."
Bird agreed, saying: "Jalen loves to play the point, and he proved to me again that he's very capable of doing that. On the offensive end, he had two baskets in the fourth quarter that held off their rally. He just played awesome all night."
The first three games of the series had been decided in the final seconds. Finally, the Pacers took control of a game just as most people expected them to take control of the series.
"We feel . . . we know we're the better team," Miller said.
CAPTION: Reggie Miller got going in Game 4 Monday night, scoring five of his 12 points in final 73 seconds after not scoring in last five minutes of first three games.
CAPTION: Knicks' Chris Dudley is tied up by Dale Davis, left, Rik Smits in Pacers' 90-78 victory Monday night that evened series.