The Indiana Pacers become one of the first NBA teams to move into the 10-win range, but needed every bit to pull out a tough win against the New York Knicks, but these are the kinds of wins good teams come through in. The Pacers really had no business pulling this one out. They dropped 13-0 out of the gate and spent all night playing catch up. While the Pacers' defense was able to hold New York from building on the early lead, their offense couldn't get on track, scoring just 14 first quarter points total.
They were able to continue closing the gap to a point or two throughout the game, but each time the Knicks had a response in tow, pushing the game back to six or seven. Even when Indiana broke through into the lead, the Knicks were right there every time. The Pacers used a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to go up four, but a pair of New York three pointers put them back on top in time for the Pacers to struggle from the free throw line in the game's final four minutes.
Indiana, given six shots made just two down the stretch, all the while the Knicks just pushing themselves into the lead as Carmelo Anthony put New York up three with nine seconds left after a pair of George Hill three pointers went awry, including a flat footed pull-up with the ball down one and the chance to hold for the final possession. Paul George pulled up for a game tying three, getting fouled on the shot by Iman Shumpert, sending George to the line with a chance to tie.
George hit all three attempts and from there to force the extra period, and the Pacers were able to ride New York frustrations to a 103-96 victory in OT, led by George who scored nine in the OT period. George struggled early as he has, but with the game on the line, he rose to the occasion, scoring a season high 35 points, including some key midrange shots in the extra period.
George's midrange has been vicious this season, and with the game on the line, there was little doubt he was going to drill the necessary buckets to lift his team to the victory. In addition, George filled up the stat sheet nicely with five rebounds, five steals, four assists, and two blocks. While Anthony had 30 points on the night, he was held in check in the second half and OT with 13 points. Anthony did have 18 rebounds in a night the Knicks had an extra step nearly the entire game.
For as key as George was down the stretch, the oft-frustrating play of the entire team nearly sunk them all night. But credit goes to Indiana for pulling through with resiliency in the face of their own struggles. Lance Stephenson was one guy who had a particularly poor night. His decision making was off, his defense was lackluster, and he was easily frustrated by the plays the Knicks were coming up with. He did nearly pull in a double double with nine points and nine rebounds, but his four turnovers and four fouls were direct aids to New York's night.
George Hill played perhaps the most frustrating game of the night. Hill had 23, but would follow up missing two key free throws with a clutch three pointer, countering a big Beno Udrih game by going right at him on the other end. With eight rebounds and four three pointers (and the win), Hill's night was a net positive, but it was easy to bury him one second and build him up the next.
In the game's final seconds, he missed an in and out three pointer, chased down the rebound to the other end of the floor, and pulled up an unnecessary three with the shot clock off, which missed and gave New York the chance to go up three. It's frustrating, sure, but Hill certainly deserves a lot of credit for the way fails to let his struggles carry him through to the next possession.
David West totaled a quiet 10 point, 10 rebound double double on a night the Pacers were very tentative about attacking with their front line. While Luis Scola had a solid first half, scoring a bench high eight, the Knicks' switching defense really seemed to bewilder Indiana and kept them out of the paint and away from Roy Hibbert, who, any way you look at it, possessed a decisive advantage against New York's front court of Andrew Bargnani, Kenyon Martin, and Anthony. But West and Hibbert each game up big with blocks on Anthony in the late stages of the game to help seal the comeback.
Off the bench, Chris Copeland got some early minutes in place of Solomon Hill, who pulled in a DNP-CD. Copeland was big in a second half stretch, hitting a three and following it up with some tremendous defense on Anthony. C.J. Watson struggled shooting the ball, but like Copeland, found a key three pointer late. Every point counts when you play the way Indiana did tonight, and while Indiana shot 30 three pointers on the night, they were able to bring home nine of them.
The Pacers were beaten soundly on the glass in the early going, but ended up winning the rebounding battle, including 16 offensive rebounds. The Pacers scored 21 points off of 15 New York turnovers, and only lost the battle in the paint by four points after a decided New York advantage in the early going. It all helped to aid Indiana's victory, but there's little to no substitute for having a player who can go get you buckets when the game is on the line, and that's exactly what Paul George did for the Pacers tonight.
Indiana will have a day off before their three game road trip wraps up in Boston, as they'll get their first look at the Brad Stevens led Celtics. Indiana moves to not only 10-1, but 4-1 on the road, and more importantly, keep the top spot locked in despite a resounding Miami victory tonight. Frank Vogel stated after the game that the Pacers might not see a more desperate team all season. But these are the kinds of wins the Pacers will need to come up with if they hope to continue keeping Miami in their rearview mirror.