Well, that was fun.
The Indiana Pacers swiped home court advantage by beating the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon, but they sure didn't steal the W. The Pacers staved off any dramatic comebacks to add to the legendary history of MSG by staying solid through the final buzzer and finding ways to continually answer runs by the Knicks with big plays at both ends of the floor.
After giving up a 9-0 run and the lead to the Knicks in the closing minutes of the first quarter, the Pacers worked their way back in control of the game and finished the first half with a 6-0 run that had the Garden muttering at the break. The Pacers then closed out the third quarter with a 6-2 to head into the fourth quarter up by 16. The key play to close out the third came when Lance Stephenson skied for an offensive rebound (honestly, I thought it was Hibbert at first) with 35 seconds remaining to save the possession and then feed D.J. Augustin for a corner three-ball.
The Pacers made it look borderline easy while they took advantage of every good bounce and some rough play which fed into their game plan. It is one thing to have a great game plan, but for the Pacers executing said plan is a different story.
That's where Brian Shaw comes in with his experience being immersed in championship runs as a player and coach. Shaw used his time to address the team prior to playing by pumping his guys up to rise to the moment on the big stage, as Mike Wells reports.
Shaw routinely talks trash, especially to Paul George and Lance Stephenson, about not being ready for big games to try to get in their heads during shooting games after practice and before games.
But he flipped the conversation around during his speech on Saturday.
"I said we are built for this moment," said Shaw, who wore one of his championship rings during the game. "Frank has been telling them since the beginning of the year that their time was going to come. The team we're going to face, we're equipped to handle them with our personnel and our schemes.
"I told them they'll feel the pressure of being on this stage, but don't succumb to it, embrace it."
Embrace it they did. Great report from Wells, be sure to check out the whole thing.
The win wasn't perfect game but as we all found out last year in the second round, every W is vitally important and every game its own gnarly beast. MSG will no doubt be howling on Tuesday night for Game 2. Get some rest, adjust and get ready to grind for another 48 minutes.