The Indiana Pacers jumped out to an 11-3 lead and despite some early turnovers that allowed the New York Knicks to respond in kind, the Pacers never backed down and gave the Knicks the game they wanted, sticking to the same game plan that allowed them to hold New York at arm's length in Game 3: by dominating the glass, defending the hell out of the ball, and not turning it over at an alarming rate. The result? It ended as a good one for the good guys, who behind some timely buckets, put the Knicks in a hole, defeating them 93-82 and moving to 3-1 in the series.
Indiana had 16 offensive rebounds which led to 14 second chance points. Their 54-36 rebounding edge was the largest of the series, a surprising result given the Knicks' awareness of the discrepancy. But their ability to create offense with missed shots has opened up a lot of opportunities for the Pacers to camp out behind the three point arc and take the shots the Knicks are affording them. The Pacers hit eight three pointers, continuing to find success with timely threes. Lance Stephenson led the way with three as part of his 13 point night, turning in a solid performance that included seven rebounds.
George Hill was the star of the night for the Pacers. Hill had a game high 26, the second straight game a Pacers player has taken the scoring lead, lighting up the scoreboard in the third quarter particularly with 14. His third quarter performance was key to minimizing the damage done by the Knicks, getting to the free throw line nine times on the night.
Paul George was not only tremendous again on the defensive end, but made work difficult for Carmelo Anthony again, limiting him to 24 points on 23 shots. On the other end, George finished up with 18. His shooting wasn't particularly engaging, but has held serve in a volume shooting match, winning the free throw trips 8-5. George led all players with 14 rebounds, getting seven assists to go alongside a pair of steals and blocks.
J.R. Smith wrapped up his night with 19 points, but needed 22 shots to get there. The bad news is that Smith was more consistent getting shots to go as the game went on. If there's any carryover, it could make Game 5 a particularly difficult one to close out. His scoring (as well as valuable shooting from Chris Copeland) helped give New York the bench advantage, but Indiana's bench play continued to bring valuable resolution.
D.J. Augustin had 11 points and played a perfect game with zero turnovers. Augustin's play as a game manager has been tremendous in spelling minutes from Hill and even allowing the Pacers to confidently run the point through Augustin, freeing up Hill to be the more natural 2. Ian Mahinmi provided valuable minutes in the third quarter as Roy Hibbert sat with foul trouble.
Hibbert's night was deceptive. It was hard to tell watching his game that he was a non-factor offensively, but a hat trick of blocks and 11 rebounds helped make a positive impact though Tyson Chandler did a much better job tonight limiting the big fella's offensive impact. David West as well wasn't much of an offensive thread, finishing with a 10 & 10 double double.
Taking care of home court has given the Pacers a commanding 3-1 series advantage as the series shifts back to New York for Game 5 on Thursday for a potential Pacers close out. While a 3-1 lead shouldn't be a huge surprise given the matchup advantages the Pacers have against the Knicks, it has been somewhat surprising just how in control Indiana has been throughout this series. They've dominated the glass and taken away just about everything the Knicks want to do offensively. When able to defend the league's leading scorer one-on-one, it opens up so much for the defense when it comes to taking away their bread and butter.
It certainly helps that the Pacers have played some of their biggest basketball in the last two games, frustrating the Knicks to the point where they were itching to force the Pacers into retaliation through late shoves and fouls throughout the game. The Pacers deserve a lot of credit for remaining composed in the face of some pretty unnecessary plays, but the Pacers weren't going to be shaken from their focus at any point tonight.
The Pacers improved to 5-0 in the playoffs at home, hopefully reestablishing their home court dominance from earlier this season, which could make their future postseason endeavors that much easier. The Pacers will face their biggest test of the postseason when it comes to closing out the Knicks on the road, but the Pacers are actually 2-0 under Frank Vogel when they're in position to close out a series. Why not make it three?