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Knicks 98, Pacers 92: New York Makes Plays Down the Stretch Against Odd Pacer Lineup

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Letting out a huge sigh of relief after beating Washington, the Pacers traveled out to the Big Apple to take on the newly relevant Knicks. Indiana unveiled their new small ball philosophy against New York, grounding Roy Hibbert, and going with a starting lineup involving Danny Granger, Brandon Rush, and Mike Dunleavy. The speed of the lineup came out strong and built a quick lead, but the game took a see-saw nature for the rest of the game.

Granger led the way in the first half for the Pacers with a rare double double, dropping 19 points and eating up 10 boards in the first 24. The Pacers had to contend with free throw onslaught and high shooting percentages from New York, but were able to keep the game close by grabbing 15 offensive rebounds.

The team’s intentions to attack the Knicks with a wing heavy lineup saw some snags as Dunleavy was noticeably under the weather and rookie Paul George was quickly saddled with foul trouble. After an offensively driven first half, both teams buckled down on the defensive end and neither team was able to take control of the game. After Wilson Chandler’s buzzer beater to end the third, the Pacers went into the fourth down two.

The nature of the game continued into the fourth, but both teams were bailed out by each other’s poor shooting. Midway through the final period, both teams had dropped below 40% and New York had went four minutes without a point, but the game remained tight. After Jeff Foster fouled out late in the game, Jim O’Brien opted to go with a front court of Solomon Jones and James Posey. Amar’e Stoudemire put the Knicks up 5, the largest margin by either team in the second half, with easy layups over Posey.

Darren Collison pulled the Pacers to within three, but Stoudemire continued his fourth quarter onslaught by hitting the dagger with 35 seconds to go. The Pacers fell in disappointing fashion, but what was most disappointing showing in the fourth quarter down the stretch. It’s easy to point to the follies of Solo and Posey being on the floor in a tight game they weren’t contributing in (especially considering Hibbert’s quiet, but effective limited night), but the Knicks made the plays down the stretch. Ronny Turiaf led the way with six blocked shots, none bigger than his final block on Collison with time running down.

The game was a very close one throughout the night and credit goes to the Knicks for making the plays to win the game. Darren Collison tried to take over with the game closing out, but the defense of the Knicks stepped up in a big way to keep Collison off the scoreboard. The real issue seems to be in the rotation down the stretch. After Foster fouled out, it was a real shock that Solo was the one checking in. After Amar’e burned Posey twice in two plays, it seemed absurd he was still guarding him as he put up the dagger. The final adjustments were poor, and were a key in letting this one slip away.

After the jump, more on this one:

  • Danny Granger’s first half was tremendous, but he cooled off a lot in the second half. He finished the night with 25 points and 17 rebounds, the latter a career high, doing so on 7 offensive rebounds.
  • As a whole, the Pacers ruled the offensive glass, winning the battle 21-9, and getting an extra 26 shots. What they did with those extra 26 shots wasn’t the most effective, as the Pacers finished the night on 37% shooting. Once again, it doesn’t matter how well the defense plays, the offense struggles when all’s said and done.
  • Roy Hibbert came off the bench for the first time all season, but logged just 16 minutes, despite playing effectively. He managed to get chippy with Ronny Turiaf and Bill Walker, and finished the night 4-9 for 10 points. Despite having his best first half in some time, Hibbert remained glued to the bench in the second half.
  • Coming off his career game, Paul George was saddled with foul trouble quickly, and ended up with five on the night. He did so in just nine minutes of action. It was a moderate concern of mine that despite the strong effort, George’s action would continue to be limited. It’s hard to say whether his action was limited directly because of the foul trouble or not, but the four wing attack was not in full swing today.
  • Darren Collison played a strong game, scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists to go alongside five boards. Despite not being able to make the plays down the stretch, he made the effort, and we saw the player fans were excited to see, remaining very excited about the young PG’s prospect.
  • The final roster, not counting Hibbert’s insertion with 35 seconds to go and the game all but out of reach consisted of Darren Collison, T.J. Ford, Danny Granger, James Posey, and Solomon Jones. Granger and Collison aside, Jim O’Brien opted to field a lineup that finished the night 3-16 from the field, ignoring quality efforts from Brandon Rush and Hibbert, as well as the offensive rebounding efforts of Josh McRoberts in order to field a reactionary lineup to the Knicks. The Pacers, who were struggling offensively in the fourth quarter, didn’t put themselves in a position to work offensively. The Knicks were able to react quickly and often to Darren Collison drives because the threats weren’t there for Indiana. As a whole, it was a frustrating close to the game, because I don’t feel O’Brien gave the team their best chance at winning by including a roster that had been effective offensively throughout the night.

The Pacers let this one slip away, no bones about it, and will have four days off to figure out how to not lose to the San Antonio Spurs (not to mention upcoming games against Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago). These types of losses cannot happen, especially if there is any feeling of confusion as to why a certain lineup was fielded. At 14-18, the Pacers may only be able to escape with one win in their next five games, if that. Being 15-22 would go a long way in killing all of the positive vibes this season began with. This season is on the precipice.