The Indiana Pacers didn't go into Madison Square Garden and steal home court from the New York Knicks, they went into Madison Square Garden and forcibly took Game 1 from the Knicks, bowling over New York with their physical play. Indiana made it a goal to take away everything the Knicks wanted to do, from three point shooting to Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith production.
The Knicks began the game in solid shape, using an 11-0 run that bled over into the second quarter to push them to a seven point lead. New York was finding almost all of their success on the pick and roll, led by Raymond Felton, who had 12 first quarter points. But D.J. Augustin's explosion in the second quarter, scoring seven straight points in the second quarter to get the Pacers back in the game helped signal a sea change. Suddenly, the Pacers got going offensively, and on the defensive end began to protect the paint on everything the Knicks tried to get in the paint.
Indiana began a dominating stretch in the second and third quarters where they held the Knicks to 38 points, while their offense rolled, scoring 59 as the Pacers took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter. Anthony and Smith began to find success to help bring the Knicks back in the game, but Anthony's foul troubles allowed the Pacers to go at him for key buckets that kept New York at arm's length, the Knicks not getting any closer than six as the Pacers go up 1-0 in their series.
Something that hasn't really been picked up on about this series is that Indiana entered Game 1 having the advantages that will make this a series that could potentially be won or loss on the play of the Pacers rather than the play of the Knicks. Of course, the market and superstar lean makes that an impossible angle to see taken, but Indiana had done a tremendous job stifling all of the things New York liked to do in their four regular season meetings despite the 2-2 season split.
It's the same blueprint Indiana used to grab Game 1, and when adding in an extra dose of hustle and physicality, it just shows how in control of the series the Pacers were heading into it. Of course, things will change for Game 2, the officials may not allow the same brand of playoff basketball, which could easily swing Tuesday night's game in New York's favor if Roy Hibbert finds himself in early foul trouble.
Getting Hibbert out of the game early is what the Knicks may make point #1 for Game 2. Hibbert was a monster on the defensive end and everything the Knicks wanted to do was stopped thanks to the big man. Hibbert not only had five blocks as a badge for his effort in the paint, but thoroughly took it to Tyson Chandler for 14 points and eight rebounds. The rebounding edge was in Indiana's favor all night, eventually settling at +14. The Pacers hustled to the loose ball all night, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and scoring 20 second chance points and winning the battle in the paint 46-32.
Lance Stephenson continued to play at an extremely high level, getting an 11 point, 13 rebound double double, his third straight double figure rebounding game, getting three steals and making some impressive plays at the basket and with the ball. Paul George really did a fantastic job on the defensive side of the ball, helping to limit both Anthony and Smith. Anthony finished the game 10-28 and Smith was 4-15, both having to climb to those numbers on strong fourth quarters.
George eventually fouled out, but had 19 points, getting to the line eight times and hitting a pair of three pointers. Indiana held the Knicks from the three point line as well, keeping them at 7-19 for the game, but were helped by shooting well themselves. Indiana went 8-23, led by D.J. Augustin, who went 4-5 for his 16 points off the bench. Augustin helped to swing the game in Indiana's direction in the second quarter and had one of his best showcases of the entire season. There's no better time than the present for Augustin, and it was such a reward for the Pacers to get valuable contribution off the bench on the road.
David West had a team high 20, being the rock solid go-to when the Pacers were in the need of a bucket, each of his fourth quarter buckets pushing the lead back into double figures. While West (as well as Sam Young and Tyler Hansbrough) struggled defensively against Anthony, he was able to return the favor on the other end, especially with Anthony's foul troubles late. George Hill had an all around game despite his shooting woes, scoring 14 points with seven rebounds and six assists.
Just like that, the series swings in Indiana's favor. The Pacers were able to control the tempo en route to their Game 1 victory, and the next step is to weather the adjustments New York will make for Tuesday night's tip. Series typically get more physical as they go on, so where does this series go from here? To add in some more flavor in the series' rivalry, Game 2 will feature Reggie Miller with the game on TNT.