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Pacers advance to Eastern Conference Finals

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2004.

But it was a battle.

The Pacers beat the New York Knicks 106-99 on Saturday night to win the best-of-seven series 4-2.

"I just want to start by congratulating the Knicks on a heck of a series, especially this Game 6," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They really gave us all we could handle. They played an excellent, excellent basketball game and I'm just glad we prevailed."

Indiana will face the Miami Heat in Game 1 on Wednesday. The Pacers were 2-1 against the Heat in the regular season.

The Pacers are moving on because they used a balanced attack to beat the Knicks.

Swingman Lance Stephenson scored 25 points. Paul George and Roy Hibbert added 23 and 21 points, respectively.

Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 39 points.

"It's tough," Anthony said. "We all know what the goal was. Everybody wanted to go to the championship. That's the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, our run has to stop here."

The Pacers trailed by as many as three points in the fourth quarter before Stephenson got a steal, layup and foul to break a 92-92 tie with less than four minutes left.

The score was never tied again after that.

"They were still the aggressor," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "We had our chances. We came back and took the lead. But we just didn't make the plays coming down the home stretch. We put them on the line a lot in terms of shooting free throws and that was a big difference in the game."

Stephenson needed a bounce-back game after he was benched for most of the second half for poor play in Game 5. He said he didn't sleep well after that performance.

"The last game I felt like I didn't play to my ability," Stephenson said. "I couldn't wait for this game. I was focused tonight on playing my game and doing whatever I could to help my teammates."

The Pacers had everything going their way in the third quarter.

They led by as many as 12 points and the home crowd was behind them.

All it took was one more big run to send the Knicks home for the summer.

That run didn't happen.

That's because Anthony and Iman Shumpert decided to put on a show.

Shumpert, taking advantage of having Tyler Hansbrough and David West defending him, made three straight 3-pointers and J.R Smith added a fourth to tie the score at 72-72.

The Knicks, who struggled from long distance all series, went on a stretch where they made seven straight 3's.

The Pacers were fortunate to head into the fourth quarter tied 81-81 after Shumpert scored 16 points and Anthony added 15 on a combined 10-of-13 shooting from the field in the third quarter.

"It's tough to go out this way," Woodson said. "I tip my hat to the Pacers. Their staff did an excellent job in getting their team to the next round. I didn't make it happen for u and that's what's disappointing."

NOTES: Pacers point guard George Hill, who suffered a concussion in Game 4, was cleared to play Saturday afternoon after passing the NBA's mandatory concussion protocol. He missed Game 5 after failing the concussion test on Thursday. Hill participated in shootaround Saturday and didn't have any setbacks. "He's a big part of what we do," Vogel said. ... Vogel said "no comment" when asked if the thought the screen Tyson Chandler set on Hill in which he suffered the concussion was clean. ... Each Pacers player attempted 100 free throws after practice Friday after they were only 19 of 33 from the line in their Game 5 loss. ... Knicks guard Jason Kidd went into Game 6 having not scored in the series on eight shots from the field.
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