At least one good thing came from Indiana Pacers' fourth loss in five games; the chance to back into the third seed in the Eastern Conference as Brooklyn fell in Toronto guaranteeing the Pacers a tiebreaker should the two teams finish the same record. It's pretty much the lone positive for the Pacers today, who otherwise spent the day mentally getting beat down by the New York Knicks.
Given the recent effort of the Pacers, it's somewhat positive to see that Indiana did a much better job staying in the game today, despite falling behind by 20 for the fifth straight game, this time about halfway through the second quarter. The Pacers absolutely did themselves in today once that happened, despite finishing the half on a 19-6 run that cut the lead to seven. That seven point hurdle was about all Indiana could get to, an avalanche of turnovers, offensive fouls, bad shots giving the Knicks an easy opportunity to simply hit a shot to keep the game at arm's length.
It's pretty easy to see a reality where the Pacers steal this game, but they just looked mentally finished, which could be more concerning than getting shot out of the building by a scorching Nets team. Indiana finished the night with 26 turnovers, leading to 33 New York points, outscoring Indiana by 24 in points off turnovers. Turnovers came in all different shapes and sizes, with a bad pass here, a New York steal there, and all seven of the game's offensive foul whistles.
Turnovers were the main culprit in Indiana's undoing today, but the Pacers didn't do themselves any further favors by not being able to take advantage of their size advantage, settling for 28 three point shots, a shot New York was more than willing to give up, but a great deal of the threes came early in the shot clock, and didn't look good when they were bricking off the rim. The 28 three point attempts doubled the total attempts by Indiana's starting front line. Roy Hibbert and David West were effective when they were able to make plays. West finished with 17 despite getting only nine attempts, and Hibbert had 10 rebounds while only getting five shots himself.
That left a bulk of the effort to come from Indiana's wings and back court. Lance Stephenson was lethal when attacking the basket, but got over half of his shots from three point range, although he did hit four of nine. Stephenson led the Pacers with 22. George Hill was the only starter to have less than four turnovers on the night, committing one, but didn't make much of an impact aside from a pair of three pointers, missing his only two free throw attempts on a night the Pacers also left 10 points on the line by shooting just 61.5%, wasting a huge free throw advantage over New York.
Paul George had 11 assists (the Pacers assisted well with 20 on 28 field goals), but went just 3-12 from the floor. His defense came and went throughout the game, though the Pacers defense as a whole did a solid job, limiting New York to under 43% on the night, and a high scoring Carmelo Anthony to 25 on 23 shots, actually slipping into a 2-3 zone a couple of times, heling Indiana get back in the game after falling behind by 20.
Jeff Pendergraph was the highlight off the bench, scoring 12 on 5-6 shooting, but the bench as a whole could only score 22, watching Chris Copeland score 20 on his own off the Knicks bench. Indiana rebounded exceptionally well, but the turnovers washed away a healthy advantage on the glass. The Knicks were able to get 17 extra shot attempts thanks to the huge turnover discrepancy (and also in part due to the free throw advantage for Indiana), an extra three three pointers on seven more field goals proving to be the advantage for New York.
The Pacers will be on TNT Tuesday against the Boston Celtics, though the availability of the full roster has yet to be determined thanks to Indiana clinching the third seed and looking to rest players. The Pacers are no doubt limping their way into the playoffs, being losers of four of five and having fallen behind by 20 in each of those five, but a week's chance to get guys another wind for the postseason can hopefully get this team right as the focus will shift towards the battle between the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls for the sixth seed, with a Bulls loss putting Atlanta a game ahead with three to play, Chicago holding the tiebreaker.