The return of smash mouth helped lead the Indiana Pacers to a big Game 3 victory over the New York Knicks. Once again, the Pacers forced the Knicks into the style of play they wanted. It's been a series to this point controlled by the team that has dictated the tempo and style of play and tonight was no different. The Pacers led nearly the entire way, but while they weren't able to blow the game wide open until late in the fourth, the Knicks never truly pressured Indiana, especially in the second half.
Indiana beat the Knicks thanks to their rebounding effort and due to an extra-ordinate amount of three pointers that were taken by the Pacers. New York's defense allowing threes while the Pacers clamped down and took away the three point shot from the Knciks created a bit of an odd box score with Indiana shooting 10-33 from three point range and the Knicks finishing up 3-11, getting up a few of those attempts in garbage time. The three point advantage did help the Pacers despite the number of threes.
George Hill led the way with five three pointers, and it seemed whenever Indiana needed one to go in, they were able to find those three points. In addition, the Pacers dominated the glass, including 18 offensive rebounds. The three pointers helped lead the way to Indiana's dominance on the glass, with nine of their offensive boards coming from three point misses. So while it's easy to look at three point shooting as a number that should come down in favor of better shots (though most were very high percentage looks), it was those three point misses that opened up a lot of other opportunities for Indiana in tonight's game.
The Pacers not only won the rebounding battle 53-40, but halted the advantage New York gained in turnovers and points off turnovers. Indiana had 17 on the night, allowing 18, but Indiana did a much better job tonight forcing turnovers, with 15 turning into 20 Pacer points. Paul George had an absolutely fantastic night as long as you don't look at his shooting (a woeful 4-17 and 2-12 from three point range), totaling 14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and five steals.
It was Roy Hibbert who was the key to Indiana's win, scoring a playoff career high 24 points and getting 12 rebounds, eight on the offensive end. Hibbert lamented after the game that he wasn't able to record a block, but his effort on 9-18 shooting, drawing seven fouls from the scrambling and overpowered Knicks defense really opened the door for the Pacers to not only maintain their lead, but not give much up in the way of runs, Hibbert thoroughly taking it to Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and whoever happened to be on the other end of Hibbert's play.
It was a game defined by the starters, with David West grabbing an 11 point and 12 rebound double double, but with Pacers in double figures was four times as many as New York had. Carmelo Anthony was the only Knick player in double figures, scoring 21 points, but being limited to just eight in the second half as George did a fantastic job limiting Anthony's effectiveness. Anthony got no help from his teammates in tonight's scoring affair.
Raymond Felton had done a good job carving up Indiana in the first two games, but was MIA in tonight's contest, finishing with six. J.R. Smith was a game time decision with a fever, and didn't offer much more than he's offered the Knicks to this point in the series anyway, finishing with nine points. Iman Shumpert was just 3-10 shooting and Chandler had nine, and Amar'e Stoudemire had seven in his return, securing five points on referee reviewed baskets at the end of the third quarter.
It wasn't a great effort from the Pacers in certain areas (35% shooting, 17 turnovers), but it didn't matter with the lack of energy from the Knicks (who shot 35% themselves). The Pacers find themselves in a favorable situation, but they're now at the same point they were last year: up 2-1 on the Eastern Conference's #2 seed with Game 4 at home. Indiana has another golden (swagger) opportunity to put their Semifinals opponent on the ropes on Tuesday, and have to find a way to seize the opportunity, not slip up and give home court advantage back to the Knicks.