Given the struggles for the Indiana Pacers this season, the rare (mostly) feel good win has to come as a relief. For just the third time this season, the Pacers enjoyed a 20-point win (give or take a point anyway), putting the New York Knicks in the rear view for a 103-82 victory. The game was noted for big second and third quarters from the Pacers, but the Pacers had to fight back from a double digit first quarter deficit to do so.
A hot start for the Knicks, hitting eight of nine shots early, put them ahead 17-8 early, a lead they would grow to 11 late in the first quarter up 27-16. The Knicks were hitting shots, but poor defensive intensity by the Pacers helped create better looks for New York, getting early contributions from Carmelo Anthony and Lou Amundson. Indiana struggled closing the gap, trailing 29-22 after the first.
In the second quarter, the Pacers saw a noticeable uptick in play with their reserve unit, getting boosts from Lavoy Allen and Ian Mahinmi, who helped close the gap in the second. Inching closer, the biggest swing in the game was a pair of offensive boards on one possession by Allen, finally setting up Damjan Rudez in the corner for three, drawing Indiana to within a point, the closest they had been all night.
Indiana would finally break through on an 12-2 run opened up by Allen that put Indiana ahead 48-41. After Allen's put back put Indiana up five late in the run, he came up lame, causing him to leave the game with a right knee bruise. The injury kept Allen out of the game in the second half. It didn't have any lingering affect on the play of the Pacers in the game, but was an unfortunate turn for Allen and the Pacers.
On the night, Allen had eight points and five rebounds (three offensive) in his nine minutes of action. For the Pacers, who were working with limited minutes for C.J. Miles and George Hill, adding another name to the infirmary list certainly adds to the frustration on the season. Allen joined the rotation tonight as Frank Vogel opted to rest Luis Scola for tonight's game (and possibly Saturday's).
The unsolvable enigma that was Lou Amundson tonight gave life to the Knicks, with six straight points from Amundson closing the seven point gap to three points late in the half, with the Pacers leading 54-49 at the break. Amundson had 14 in the first half, if not being opportunistic, then flat out wrecking Roy Hibbert on defense. The play of Amundson wasn't lost on Hibbert, who opened the second half with a tour de force of his own.
Hibbert blocked Amundson's first attempt of the second half, surrounding that with eight of Indiana's first 10 points of the second half as Indiana opened up a double figure lead on the Knicks. The Pacers hit 10 of their first 11 shots in the third quarter, and when New York called a full timeout with 6:37 remaining, the game sat at 76-56 Indiana. Things continued in Indiana's favor from there, with a pair of Solomon Hill three pointers helping to push Indiana ahead by 30, ending the third quarter up 89-62.
The Pacers opened the floodgates in the second and third quarters, winning the two by a combined 67-32 score, all while holding the Knicks to 12 points in the third quarter. Uneventful garbage time while Shayne Whittington was diving for loose balls in Ft. Wayne allowed the Pacers to cruise to a 103-82 victory over New York, their second largest win of the season, second only to their 110-85 win over Brooklyn just after Christmas.
Indiana shot very well on the night thanks to the second and third quarters, wrapping up with a 53.2% night from the floor. The Pacers also handled New York on the glass, winning 49-33, getting big rebounding play up front due to the lack of size from the Knicks. The front line of the Pacers accounted for 31 rebounds, including double figure nights for Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi.
Mahinmi led the bench with eight points and 10 rebounds, and those nine minutes from Lavoy Allen proved crucial in helping Indiana turn the game in their favor with some much needed positive play and hustle. Hibbert in general had a big game offensively with 18 points on 9-11 shooting to go along with his 10 rebounds. While Lou Amundson got his in the first half, he was held to three points in the second half, far more in line with what you'd expect across 48 minutes.
Rodney Stuckey led the Pacers with 22 points on 8-13 shooting, providing a steady offensive punch throughout the game. All four of Indiana's double figure scorers were starters tonight, with David West and Solomon Hill each scoring 10 points. C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez had quiet nights, but along with Hill found big threes at the right time to swing the game in Indiana's favor.
The Pacers had 50 points in the paint, speaking to their ability to use their size to their advantage, holding the Knicks to 42% on the night, dropping them from their hot start in the first quarter. Indiana shot poorly from the line at 13-18, but did hold a rare advantage, while also assisting on 25 of their 42 buckets.
Tonight's game was a close to a "should win" for the Pacers as they've faced in some time, though overall play on the season suggested that expecting positives from this team is hardly a wise bet beyond pure optimism. But after the early struggles, Indiana managed to take care of business and come away with a win they, well, should've been able to pick up.
The Pacers home stand continues Saturday night when they host the Sacramento Kings. The Pacers suffered a heartbreaker to the Kings in December, but turmoil within the Sacramento franchise has slid to a 6-19 record since the win over Indiana, including a current seven game streak that could be sitting on eight when the teams tip Saturday.