Everything is just fine. Order is restored. Let the road to the playoffs begin. Or something like that.
After dropping the first three games of the season in ugly fashion, the Knicks allowed the Indiana Pacers to regroup, recharge and reignite that burning flame that leads to something we like to call...winning. Despite losing Danny Granger to the bench with fouls in the final minutes, it was the team's defense and strong offensive possessions from T.J. Ford (no need to check your eyes, that does read correctly) that sealed the Pacers 101-89 win.
After trailing by six at halftime, the Pacers (1-3) shook off their usual third-quarter blues by clamping down defensively and holding the shot-happy Knicks to only 33 second-half points. The Pacers took charge of the game after Granger fouled out with the team up four points with three minutes to play. Dahntay Jones, who was an offensive and defensive force from the onset Wednesday night, hounded the Knicks post play despite being undersized against the likes of Al Harrington and David Lee. Then an unlikely hero rose from the ashes of the season. Ford, who had struggled mightily in the team's first three losses, made eight of Indiana's final 10 points to put the game out of reach.
The game featured many season "firsts" for the blue and gold. Brandon Rush attempted his first free throw, while also draining his first 3-pointer. Roy Hibbert fouled no one. Granger made big plays. The defense actually put a stop-gap in the middle of the lane. And the Pacers had more free-throw attempts, more rebounds and, most importantly, more points than the Knicks.
Still, these were the Knicks, which along with the Pacers have only one win apiece in the infancy of the 09-10 season. Maybe the Knicks were too distracted by the World Series, but something must be said for seeing, for the first time, some semblance of what the Pacers looked like in games last year. Hey, it's a start. Or something like that.
- Another slow start for the blue and gold gang. The offense was stagnant yet again in the first quarter but, luckily, the opponent was the Knicks. The Pacers posted seven turnovers in the first six minutes of the game, along with a staggering amount of misguided passes, blind dribbling into traffic and a blatant disregard for knowing where their teammates were on the court. Then, things immediately shifted for the better when the second unit, consisting of Earl Watson, Solomon Jones and Luther Head, came into the game late into the first quarter. They picked up the game speed and it replaced the lull that shrouded the opening minutes.
- Without Troy Murphy available due to injury, coach Jim O'Brien cut the playing rotation down to only eight players. Travis Diener, A.J. Price and Josh McRoberts sat dressed in their uni's on the bench tonight.
- Free-throw differential. For the longest time tonight, the Pacers actually dominated in this stat category for the first time since 1971. Midway through the fourth quarter, Indiana had 22 attempts from the charity stripe compared to a paltry four shots by the Knicks. But thanks to a Danny Granger-led fouling spree to finish the game, the Knicks cut that differential pretty quickly, yet the team still compiled a 28-18 advantage at the end of regulation. But hey, at least we know it's possible for the Pacers to dominate the free-throw disparity. Possible.
- Roy Hibbert fouled...NOBODY! It's a miracle! Very good night for the big man on offense and defense. I've written a billion times, but the guy needs the ball in the post much more often than he's been getting it. Too many times, Hibbert is being given the ball beyond the perimeter to act as a passing mechanism to further the Pacers' non-existent ball movement skills. He needs the ball in the post people! It may never be pretty what he does in there, but he gets things done.
- Granger didn't look right early and often on the offensive end. The heel must still be bothering him pretty badly as his elevation on the jump shot is just not where it needs to be. Still, he came up big in the second half and recovered his box score to garner a team-high 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting. We talking on the boards that this upcoming schedule might be a good time for Granger to sit down and let that heel rest. The Pacers play only game between now and next Wednesday (Friday's contest against the Wizards). Maybe the time off could get him back to Superman status.
- Brandon Rush, welcome to the 2009-10 season. He was one of three players to compile double-doubles (Rush had 12 points and 10 rebounds), and his two 3-pointers in the first half kept the Pacers in striking distance for the big second-half run. Jones and Hibbert nabbed double-doubles as well with Jones getting 19 points, 12 rebounds and Hibbert overpowering the small-ball Knicks lineup for 15 points and 14 rebounds.
- Lastly, the offense still looked terrible quite often, the shooters still shot a paltry 5-of-21 from beyond-the-arc, the defense allowed David Lee to run wild for 20 points and 19 rebounds, and the Pacers dominated in turnovers again with a healthy 21 total. Still lots of problems. But it sure felt good to get that win. Check out the Knicks point-of-view on the game over at Posting and Toasting.