The Indiana Pacers managed to close out the New York Knicks for their seventh straight win, but it wasn’t until the last five minutes that they put it all together to ensure they got there without concern. The two teams hung close throughout the game as every opportunity for the Pacers to push the game out of reach was thwarted by costly mistakes and timely Knicks buckets.
After leading by six after three, the Knicks tied the game and kept it within a single possession when Victor Oladipo hit a crucial three to double the lead. Coming back the other way, Myles Turner went up with Enes Kanter, blocking Kanter and sending Indiana the other way in a fast break. Oladipo would turn the ball over, but Turner would recover to chase down Emmanuel Mudiay to keep him from throwing down the breakaway dunk.
Those two plays, coupled with a block and steal by Thaddeus Young would help Indiana stand strong as they looked for baskets to wrap up the win. They managed to do so at the free throw line, mixed well with a dagger Turner three to cap off the 110-99 victory.
Even in coming away with the win, it was anything but easy. In a take-care-of-business game, the Pacers didn’t seem prepared to match the energy of the Knicks, which was evident from the tip when Kanter picked up three offensive rebounds on one play to score the first points of the game.
The combination of Kanter and Noah Vonleh combined for 10 offensive rebounds. The inability to complete stops were a big part in New York’s ability to keep the game within reach (and take leads in the third quarter). Turner lamented the lack of effort in the post-game interview with Jeremiah Johnson, but his own effort really helped keep the game from becoming a huge lost opportunity.
The Pacers actually won most of the key statistical battles. They won the turnover battle and actually finished with more rebounds on the night. However, those turnovers and those inability to pull in key rebounds may not have resulted directly in points for the Knicks, but they took away opportunities for the Pacers, allowing the door to remain wide open for timely shots to go against them.
Another factor that kind of went against the Pacers was New York settling into a zone defense. Indiana didn’t show an inability to beat the zone inside, but the temptation of three pointers bailed out the Knicks defensively more than it might have in a more traditional Pacers offense. They made 12 threes, but needed a season high 34 attempts to get there. Aaron Holiday returned to the lineup with Tyreke Evans out with a knee, and the rookie went 0-6 from three point range despite having the looks on all of them.
The one Pacer who did not struggle from deep was Oladipo, who looked his best since returning from injury, scoring 26 points with eight rebounds, seven assists, and five steals. About seven of those points were gifted on late game free throws, but he still managed to hit five threes and flashed signs of explosion when attacking the rim in 36 minutes.
Four of Oladipo’s assists went for threes, two of those for Doug McDermott, who shot 3-5 from deep and one for Turner, as part of his 24 point, six rebound night. Turner did struggle against Kanter, but unlike a lot of matchups where Turner might not dominate defensively, he did manage to return the favor with interest on the other end, shooting 10-19.
Both Young and Bojan Bogdanovic finished in double figures with 10 and 12 respectively, though Bogdanovic shot just 4-12 from the floor with one three. Young played back within his own lane after stepping up for big games, but his late steal on Kanter was almost comical, reaching slowly behind his back to just slowly swipe the ball from Kanter’s possession.
Off the bench, Domantas Sabonis didn’t fare much better against Kanter defensively, but like Turner, he also played well on his own end, finishing with a 13 point, 12 rebound double double, five of those boards coming on the offensive glass. Holiday went 0-6 from deep, but was still exciting when he was making plays, scoring seven. He joined Cory Joseph at just 2-8 from the floor, but Joseph’s play was also timely, finishing with five rebounds and five assists, finding Oladipo for three of his threes.
On the season, Indiana is now 10 games above .500 at 20-10, their best start after 30 games since the infamous 2013-14 campaign. The Pacers had to work hard in this one to avoid succumbing to a let down after two big wins against fellow Eastern contenders, but they found just enough that worked to make it their seventh straight W. Though, to be fair, any time the Pacers can hand the Knicks a loss, it’s nice no matter the road it took to get there.
Indiana will have an opportunity to improve their overall play while extending their winning streak to eight games when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.