Tonight's game was a one step forward, two steps back type of game for the entire third quarter, which has been a recent theme for the Indiana Pacers in their last few games. A great win against Miami was followed up by a dud against New Jersey, and then a really gutsy and impressive comeback against the Houston Rockets was met with an absolutely frustrating and disappointing third quarter showing against the New York Knicks.
But what separated tonight from some of the more recent struggles was Indiana's incredible fourth quarter comeback, fueled by Danny Granger giving his best Reggie Miller homage in Winning Time, to complete a New York Knicks choke job that gave every Pacers fan a big smile in the first game following Miller's induction into the Hall of Fame.
It was less about who the Knicks were missing without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, but about who the Knicks had; Carmelo Anthony and a plethora of three point shooters that allowed the them to hang around and hang around before they finally exploded on a 19-4 run late in the second and into the third to put the Knicks up double figures, a double figure stretch the Pacers just couldn't get enough to climb out of. Every single positive run they had was met with a Knicks response, an all too familiar comeback story involving the Indiana Pacers recently.
Indiana stormed out on the offensive end, led by Granger, attacking the basket and grabbing loose balls, but New York was able to hit 8 first half three pointers to allow the three pointer to play the great equalizer between an Indiana team that was outscoring the Knicks by over 20 points in the paint. It was despite all of the Pacers best efforts that the hot shooting Knicks turned up the intensity on both sides late in the second quarter to storm out to a 15-4 run to end the half.
In the third quarter, it was more of the same. Indiana was unable to contain Anthony, the Knicks kept building all of the momentum. Every time the Pacers seemed to get something going, their uphill battle would turn into a New York run. A Steve Novak three pointer put the Knicks up 17 points with a minute to go in the third quarter. It seemed New York was on their way to running away with another game against the Pacers, ramping frustrating levels to a new high.
Frank Vogel's frustrations were easy to read, his timeout following the Novak three point allowed him to dig into the team, and the Pacers opened up. They finally matched the Knicks' small size, and used it to pour on an 18-2 run with 16 in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to erase the New York lead and get back into the game. With Lou Amundson tenacity on the offensive boards and three Danny Granger three pointers in the fourth as part of his 14 fourth quarter points to bulldoze the New York Knicks into submission, as the team posted an onslaught that at one point set at 29-6.
Carmelo Anthony scored 8 points in the next minute to give the Knicks life, but a huge advantage for the Pacers ended up being free throws. After struggling to get to the line the entire night, they finally found their way to the charity stripe in the fourth, keeping the Knicks at bay despite Anthony's best effort. An in-and-out three pointer by Anthony set up a pair of free throws by Paul George, and any doubt left in the game was put to rest when George stole the ensuing inbounds pass to slam home the dagger as the Pacers walked away with a 112-104 victory.
Indiana spent most of the night trying to impose their will on the Knicks, a philosophy that didn't work too well given Anthony had 27 points through three quarters and New York was in complete control of the game. Indiana did well early to control loose balls and attack the basket, but once New York's defensive intensity went up, the Pacer productivity took a dive. They got away from everything that had put them in great position minus an onslaught of New York three pointers and it led to renewed energy for the Pacers.
When Indiana showed that fire again, New York couldn't even keep the game close. Anthony, who seemed to get everything he wanted all night was finally stifled, picking up his first fouls in the fourth and getting hounded by Granger and George. Lou Amundson was instant energy, putting forth one of his best performances, erasing some tough plays by Leandro Barbosa in the fourth to salvage possessions and fuel the Pacers comeback.
After the jump, more on the Lightning 5:
- Danny Granger will (deservedly) get all of the praise for tonight's win. When the Pacers needed him to step up and play big, he did so in the same way he did in Indiana's comeback against Houston. It was a great showcase from Granger, who once again played like the best player on the team finishing with 27 points and 7 boards, including 14 points in the fourth quarter.
- Paul George helped close the game out despite a small hiccup at the free throw line, scoring 9 points in the final 3 minutes to finish with 18 points and 8 rebounds to go along with 3 steals on the night. George wasn't able to get the shot that could've turned tides earlier, but kept fighting and spent an awful lot of time at the line in the fourth.
- Leandro Barbosa had some rough plays where he isolated the offense, but it was Lou Amundson that really bailed the team out in those cases. Both players had solid games. Barbosa got to the rim with ease all night, to finish with 12 points, and Tyson Chandler had no hope of keeping pace with the frenetic Amundson at any point in the fourth quarter.
- Elsewhere, Dahntay Jones was a big part of the comeback early, posting some points while helping the cause on the defensive end. David West sat the final portion of the game after getting knocked hard to the floor by Iman Shumpert, causing some minor concern for his knees. Darren Collison and George Hill each had solid stretches, as the two combined for 14 points and 11 assists.
Certainly, it's a great win to take in, especially given how upsetting the game had become as the second quarter closed and the third quarter provided absolutely no relief. But Indiana showed even better resolve than they did when they snapped a 51-game road losing streak in games they trailed by double figures when they beat Houston. They came out of the time out, with the game at 87-70 and the fourth quarter nearly over, and outscored the Knicks by 25 points in the next 13 minutes, winning the fourth quarter 40-17.
What this win does is put the Indiana Pacers into the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic, short Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, fell to the Detroit Pistons. Meanwhile, Miami edged out a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Indiana will have a game on the road tomorrow night back in Washington D.C. to face the Wizards again in hopes of grabbing another win against a young team that has given Indiana all they could handle in recent meetings. The Pacers have gutted out nearly all of their wins recently, and will have to continue to do so if they hope to hold strong in the Eastern Conference standings as the potential for a nightmare round one matchup could play itself out.