Or with the ramifications of Indiana's 107-105 victory, which left the Knicks - and most everyone filing out of the building - shaking their heads in disbelief? How can the Knicks possibly come back from such a fiasco?
"We played our butts off and our hearts out to win the game and simply gave it away at the end," Riley said.
Ironically, the defeat began just when it looked as if the Knicks would hold off the Pacers despite an anemic, foul-plagued performance by Patrick Ewing (11 points) and Derek Harper's ejection with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Greg Anthony, who scored 15 points in 20 minutes, including 10 in the fourth quarter, made a pair of foul shots to give the Knicks a 105-99 lead with 18.7 seconds remaining.
The Garden crowd howled in anticipation of a 1-0 series lead. But from there, it would be only groans for the 19,763 on hand, including actor- director Spike Lee, who spent much of the game from his courtside seat jawing with Miller.
Miller, who made the choke sign at Lee after his 25-point, fourth-quarter outburst stole Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at the Garden last season, sprinted to Lee's seat when time expired as their taunting match continued. It appeared Miller yelled, "Say something now!" at Lee after the dizzying finish.
Here's how it happened: Miller (31 points) followed Anthony's free throws with a three-pointer from the left side, cutting the Knicks' lead to 105-102 with 16.4 left. The Knicks, who wasted three timeouts early in the game, had none left, and when Anthony slipped to the floor, teammate Anthony Mason had no one open as he tried to inbound the ball.
Mason's frantic pass wound up in the hands of Miller, who calmly stepped back behind the three-point line and fired in another trey, tying it at 105-105 with 13.3 seconds left.
"I knew we had a chance for a steal, I didn't know he'd throw it right in my hands," Miller said.
Indiana's Sam Mitchell fouled John Starks immediately. Starks, who had made a pair with 25 seconds to go, missed both this time. But Ewing came up with the rebound and had a point-blank shot in the lane, from about 7 feet. His jumper was too hard, and Miller rebounded before being fouled by Mason.
Miller went directly to the line and drained both, pushing Indiana in front, 107-105, with 7.5 seconds remaining.
With one last chance to force overtime, Anthony pushed the ball upcourt against Miller. As he drove to his right toward the basket, Anthony said, ''There was incidental contact and I just lost my footing." As Anthony scrambled to recover the ball, the final buzzer sounded with the Knicks unable to get off a shot.
An excited Miller called the Knicks "choke artists" outside his team's locker room. He denied saying it at the postgame press conference.
Told of Miller's description, Starks said, "He can't call the Knicks choke
artists, but he can call me that. I put the loss on my shoulders. I had a chance to ice the game and I didn't. I choked."
Center Rik Smits scored 34 points for Indiana, thoroughly outplaying Ewing.
A year ago, Miller scored 25 points in the fourth quarter as Indiana took a 3-2 lead over the Knicks in the conference finals, only to lose the last two games.
Of yesterday's rally, Miller said, "It was like putting a dagger in their back."
Ewing agreed. "This is worse than last year because we had it won this time."