The Indiana Pacers once again needed a full 48 minute effort to come away with a hard-earned victory, tonight against the angry New York Knicks. The Knicks had a promising start with a potential playoff berth on the line, but have faded as of late, losing 12 of their last 14 games. But those struggles weren't much on display tonight, as they gave the Pacers plenty of fits, especially from three point range and the free throw line.
Indiana had a nice edge early thanks to vastly improved play from both Monta Ellis and George Hill. The two were non-factors in their loss at Miami, but were big impacts in the first quarter. Ellis had a pair of threes early, scoring all eight of his points in the first as Hill had six of his 10 in the quarter. The Pacers needed as much as they could get, because the Knicks were setting up a troubling trend with their three point shooting.
New York had a season high 13 made three pointers on the night, finishing 50% after mercifully cooling off late, but it wasn't so much the number made as who was making the threes. While Ellis and Hill had better nights, they were hardly bounce-back efforts in the face of Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, and Kyle O'Quinn. The trio combined for 0 points on 0-8 shooting in New York's blowout loss to Toronto, but tonight they scored 56 combined points.
Calderon led the way with 20 points, but O'Quinn pieced together a season high 19 points, and Galloway had 17 as they accounted for nine of New York's 13 three pointers on the night. That doesn't even account for New York's 22-13 free throw advantage, which is why the Pacers found themselves in a game thanks to a 16-2 Knicks run late in the third.
While Knicks' rookie Kristaps Porzingis gave New York an extra punch with a team high 23 points, including a pair of threes and a team best six free throws, the biggest silver lining for Pacers' defense came with the bad shooting night from Carmelo Anthony, who finished 5-20 for 14 points. It allowed a rounded bench performance of 31 points, led by Joe Young's eight points to minimize the effect of Anthony despite having no answer for New York's "big four" on the night.
Indiana trailed as late as 3:52 in the fourth, with the Knicks going up 99-96 thanks to a pair of Porzingis free throws. Ian Mahinmi scored the last two of his eight to respond, and it was big shots by Paul George and Myles Turner that helped Indiana close out the 108-105 victory in the final minutes. When George and Turner returned at the 8:12 mark in the fourth, the Pacers outscored New York 22-14, with 20 of those points coming from the pair.
George started slow, but found a groove in the second half, scoring 27 points on the night, 24 in the second half and 14 in the fourth quarter. He went 10-23 despite an 0-7 night from three point range on a night the Pacers had just three as a team, none coming in the final 34 minutes of action. George also had seven rebounds and six assists.
Turner had 10 of his 24 in the third quarter, pulling in six rebounds in just under 30 minutes of action. Against the presumptive Rookie of the Year in Porzingis, Turner won the scoring and rebounding edge, shooting 10-20 on the night. Turner did split a final trip at the free throw line that allowed the Knicks to get a game tying attempt in the final seconds, and his frustration at missing the free throw was great to see.
The Pacers return to action on Friday night when they host the Charlotte Hornets for the second time this season, hoping to eradicate their horrible effort in the final game before the NBA All-Star break, where Indiana lost by 22 points at home.