At least the Indiana Pacers came out with the energy they lacked last night. Whether them doing so ran them thin in the fourth quarter is hard to say, but the Pacers team that came out vs. the Pacers team that stumbled to the finish line is night and day; it certainly had a part in how the game ended up, among other things.
The Pacers actually did a solid job defensively at times; the Knicks were simply adept to hitting shots, just as they were living at the free throw line getting 41 attempts on the night, helping to result in another frustrating loss to the rejuvenated New York Knicks. The Pacers came out with a fire, but New York was simply on fire early. Both teams lit up the scoreboard in the first quarter, the Pacers passing their first quarter total from last night in less than five minutes and passing their halftime total with close to two minutes remaining.
Danny Granger and Paul George led the way for the Pacers offense that had all of its mojo, while the Knicks kept pace with hot shooting themselves. Curiously, while the first quarter defensive effort was better than anything the Pacers showed last night, the Knicks still shot nearly 60% and scored 33 points. The issue of course is that New York did score 33 points, because that put them one 10-0 stretch away from jumping out on the Pacers.
New York did just that, lightning quick, in less than two minutes, really showing their offensive wares, and doing so with their bench. For everything the Pacers did right offensively in the first quarter, they couldn't get straight in the second. Indiana had a number of turnovers in the second, with them all being unforced turnovers as the Knicks offensive kept pushing forward, with Jeremy Lin closing out the half for the Knicks to give them a nine point halftime lead.
From there, it was just a lot of work for the Pacers to get back into the swing of things. A team like the Knicks are difficult to come back on once you get behind because they've got enough options offensively that it's tough to keep them down for long. Add in Lin feasting on the smaller Darren Collison and it becomes incredibly difficult to get the stops necessary to get back into the game.
However, fueled by a renewed defensive effort in the middle parts of the third quarter, the Pacers were able to mount a 14-2 run thanks to the big time efforts of Roy Hibbert, who had his best game in what seems like ages to put the game at two. Indiana was just unable to get over that hump to get into the lead, which could've swung the entire game. And when Indiana had it at one point early in the fourth, it was that dreaded three pointer that pushed a workable one point into an insurmountable four.
In the fourth quarter, with the Pacers still trying to stay alive, they began to show their fatigue, unable to get any kind of offensive rhythm to keep up with the Knicks as the blue and gold continued to come up on the wrong side of whistles, whether they come from poorly thrown jump balls to fouls that didn't seem to go both ways. Jeremy Lin seemed to be everywhere in the fourth quarter and the Pacers began to leave everything short, ultimately resulting in their second loss to the Knicks in their second night.
It was a frustrating loss, but the Pacers remain in solid shape in the standings for the time being. The Knicks on the other hand, seem to be heading into their second upswing of the season, and whether that leads to another disgruntled collapse remains to be seen, though it's possible that when the season's over, these two losses can simply be chalked up to timing. After all, it's not who you play, it's when you play them, and this is possibly the worst time to play New York.
After the jump, more on the individual showcases:
- Roy Hibbert had his best game since Indiana's win against New Orleans before the All-Star break. The big fella had 24 and 12, while also disrupting what he could on the defensive end. His play in the third was key to getting Indiana into position to grab the lead, but even after he put Tyson Chandler on the bench with four fouls, he just didn't have enough left in the tank to really pound it in on the Knicks from there, which feels like a huge turning point since the Knicks had no answer for Roy in that stretch. Had Roy been able to continue to pound inside, or had Lou Amundson been more than that familiar "all hustle, nothing else" self he'd gotten away from, it's hard to imagine the Pacers not getting themselves into the lead.
- Paul George and Danny Granger really led the fight in the opening quarter, scoring 18 of the team's 35 first quarter points. While George remained something of a factor, it was Granger who disappeared on the offensive end the rest of the night. Meanwhile, George Hill and the Pacers bench weren't the difference makers they'd been in recent wins, and that really has a toll when the Pacers starters can't carry the load to the level they have to, because David West certainly didn't have anything in the tank tonight.
- Darren Collison will get rightfully blamed for his defensive inabilities tonight, but he was one of the more potent members of the Pacers offense with 15 points. The problem of course is that he had no way of stopping Jeremy Lin, who himself had 19 on 6-10 shooting. While Collison had his own troubles, Lin had no trouble getting any kind of call tonight, and DC did find himself on the raw end of more than one. Even still, a lot of his issues could be attributed to simply not having a defensive game worth noting.
For the Pacers, it was a blur of a loss they'd love to have back. A frustrating back-to-back losses against a below .500 team the Pacers should've been able to beat. As mentioned, timing could've played a big factor in that, even though there's no column in the standings for when you play an opponent. Indiana has fallen to 2-6 in their difficult nine game stretch that will conclude against the Los Angeles Clippers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Leandro Barbosa should be expected to make his Pacers debut on Tuesday, and that should have a huge advantage in helping the still inconsistent Indiana bench work through their own issues, but it won't be an easy win for the Pacers against Lob City.