Frank Vogel summed it up well during a late 4th quarter timeout. He asked his Indiana Pacers team to look at the scoreboard and think about how everything had gone wrong to that point. The score was 77-71, advantage New York Knicks, but the Pacers had gotten to that point with timely miscues in every way imaginable. Vogel wanted his team to know that if they were able to cut it to four, the Knicks would feel it. Every point would be an extra weight on a Knicks team facing elimination, and the Pacers would have overcome an endless stream of struggles to wrap up the series.
Unfortunately, the Pacers just couldn't get out of their own way enough to make the game theirs. They killed their own momentum time and time again and enough offense from the Knicks kept the game at arm's length. The Pacers got the news just hours before the game that they'd be without George Hill, who suffered a concussion in Game 4 and failed the concussion test after complaining about a headache after shootaround. His absence threw the team through a loop offensively in the first half, and his absence took away a key tangible from the Pacers as Raymond Felton found success against D.J. Augustin.
Augustin had some ups and some downs. In a backup role, he's done a tremendous job this series playing the game, and while he had 12 tonight, he had zero assists and two turnovers. His defense in the second half gave New York every response they needed as the Pacers offense began to find a rhythm, but 34 minutes is a lot of D.J. Augustin, and Vogel's everything and the kitchen sink lineups due to the lack of Hill, as well foul trouble to Roy Hibbert and Paul George, couldn't turn things in Indiana's favor long enough to seriously challenge.
The third quarter was a frustrating foul fest that ruined the flow of the game, as questionable fouls and questionable no calls went awry on both ends, setting the tone for the second half. Indiana did find considerable success against the Knicks and getting to the free throw line, but they had no success actually hitting free throws, finishing 19-33, 57.6%, on the night. Not only the game's 10-point final, but Indiana being within ten for a vast majority of the second half, really saw the importance of hitting free throws. Tonight, the Pacers just didn't have it.
Well, that's one of many things they didn't have. Paul George led Indiana with 23, heating up early in the fourth quarter before heading to the bench with five fouls. David West had a 17 & 10 double double, but neither player was really able to settle into a groove. George got close, but just couldn't keep it going. Carmelo Anthony finished with a game high 28, and while it took him 28 shots to get there, he was able to find just enough at the right time to help New York to the win.
The Pacers met a real challenge against Chris Copeland, who was 3-4 from three point range for 13 points. Copeland was key in an offensive rebound for an easy two, just as Felton was key for New York on the glass, simply outreaching Augustin to keep plays alive, getting four offensive rebounds. The rebounding edge went to Indiana 43-40, but winning the rebounding battle isn't enough to win when everything else is falling apart, especially when allowing 10 offensive rebounds. Indiana's bench was part of the Pacers' patchwork lineup, giving Gerald Green 13 minutes, some bad turnovers, a few points alongside Sam Young, who made a minimal effort himself. Ian Mahinmi played the best off the bench, spelling Hibbert's foul troubles well, but he joined in Indiana's foul shooting woes, going just 1-4.
So that's how Game 5 wrapped up. Indiana found themselves a huge part of the game despite everything seeming to stack against them, giving the Pacers enough motivation to know they gave one away. The common theme of this series has been at times New York playing poorly, but here we had, for the first time this series, a game where a team actually gave one away. The Pacers had no interest in seizing opportunities, but still had opportunities to win. It was a game where the Pacers seemed content to head home and wrap the series up in Game 6, and they'll get that opportunity on Saturday night.
Vogel's speech late in the fourth still rings true despite the conclusion of the game. Vogel and his team know they're the better team and as long as they don't give Game 6 away, they have to have the confidence that New York can't take it away from them. Hopefully the Pacers will bring a renewed sense of focus and attack the glass, get to the line, control the ball, and get contributions from George Hill. If that happens, Game 5 simply becomes a swan song for New York. If it doesn't, well, Carmelo Anthony says he's taking it one game at a time while trying not to think about his shoulder (despite flexing it and grimacing for the camera after every shot attempt), so maybe the Pacers will make it the last game Anthony thinks about this season.