Relax, I'm not here to complain about the 103-100 W the Pacers took from the Knicks on Wednesday night. Yes, my basketball brain keeps reminding me that this season is on life support, so losses at this point improve the long term outlook for the draft. But, I tell you, it feels good to nourish the basketball heart and soul with a Pacer win, even if it was the struggling Knicks.
Effort and dedication were rewarded tonight as the short-handed Pacers battled through their typical third quarter malaise to overcome the Knicks down the stretch. With Jamaal Tinsley in jacket and collard shirt and Travis Diener struggling with foot pain, the Pacers went without a point guard, instead using Marquis Daniels. Quisy came up huge, in fact, I can't imagine Diener finishing this game even if he was ready to go. Daniels had three steals and according to O'B, nine deflections on defense. He also poured in nine fourth-quarter points including a couple of big 3-balls. Quisy has struggled lately, so it's nice to see him fight through the tough times and come up big.
Kareem Rush came off the bench tonight and played huge minutes down the stretch. Rush's stroke was dialed in at MSG as he finished with 24 points by making 10 of 13 shots.
Mike Dunleavy struggled from the floor tonight although he had a few nice finishes around the hoop. Dun found other ways to contribute to the win though, finishing with nine assists and seven rebounds. Plus, he did make 3 of 4 critical free throws in the late stages of the game.
Continuing with the perseverance theme here, Ike Diogu didn't get much burn, just under six minutes, but he played a strong stretch at the end of the first half. He was active around the hoop and chipped in six points to help the Pacers go to the half tied at 55.
The one astonishing stat that played a critical role was turnovers. The Pacers only had five turnovers which just might be a season low. The Knicks not only had 16 turnovers, but the Pacers cashed in points on at least 14 of those donations.
Looking over some other numbers makes it hard to believe the Pacers won. The Knicks won the rebound battle, 49-34, shot about the same percentage, and made six more free throws than the Pacers.
Plus, the Knicks were able to expose the Pacers front court defensive problems early. Eddy Curry was killing the Pacers anytime they tried to front him. A Knick guard would just throw the ball at the rim and Curry would go get it and cash in the easy two. Curry finished with 20 points but he wasn't much of a factor down the stretch.
Marion's own, Zach Randolph, added another 26 points from the Knick's front court, so they were definitely able to take advantage of the Pacers thin front line.
Seriously, how did the Pacers win this game? The Knicks had some critical advantages, but just weren't able to expliot those advantages enough. Why the Knicks didn't just keep going to the well with their bigs, I'll never know. You just have to credit the Pacers for scrapping for all 48 minutes and finding some desperately needed help off the bench. The result, a true team win that snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Pacers and forced a concoction of excitement and relief to spill out on the floor when the final buzzer sounded.