The Indiana Pacers appeared to use up all their defensive stops on Friday in topping Boston, leaving them to heavily rely on their offense to stay in the win column against the New York Knicks. The Knicks scored 37 first quarter points, forcing the Pacers to keep pace until Indiana could gain some control over the game.
Indiana would do just that early in the second quarter, using a 14-2 run to build an eight point advantage. The Knicks would respond, closing the gap to two late in the half, but the Pacers again responded, finishing strong and jumping all over the Knicks in the third quarter, building their lead to 20 at 90-70.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, the Knicks weren’t ready to call it a night, trimming that lead to just 10 heading into the fourth. Indiana would keep the Knicks at arm’s length, but were forced to contend with the ever-existing threat New York provided. The Knicks ultimately trimmed the lead to six with just over a minute remaining, just time for Victor Oladipo to sink the dagger and allow the Pacers to hold on for the victory.
Indiana played very well offensively tonight, scoring 121 points on 50% shooting. They did so on 27 assists, hitting 12 threes and outrebounding the Knicks by eight, including pulling in 16 offensive rebounds, but yet they found themselves needing every bit of that contribution in large part because the Knicks were able to dictate their own terms offensively themselves, with 27 assists and a 22-16 advantage in fast break points (not to mention vastly superior free throw shooting).
In the end, however, it was Indiana’s All-Star that put them over the top. Oladipo filled up the stat sheet for the Pacers, finishing with 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, and six steals. Not only did Oladipo lead the Pacers in three of those categories, he did so by putting on a show in the process, highlighting a number of dunks in the half court set and in fast breaks.
Oladipo had plenty of help in helping secure the win with Bojan Bogdanovic leading the supporting help by scoring 20. Bogdanovic had 15 in the first half, including three of his four threes coming in the second quarter. After a dreadful January, Bogdanovic’s shooting has really come back around. Since January 31, Bogdanovic has shot 50% from three point range, including 4-7 tonight.
Thaddeus Young had a big night as well, coming up with a quiet 18 point, 11 rebound double double. Young had eight offensive rebounds, contributing four points to Indiana’s 14 second chance points. Myles Turner had four himself as part of his 13 point, six rebound night.
Foul trouble was an immediate issue for the Pacers, sending New York into the penalty just four and a half minutes into the first quarter and the fouls bit Cory Joseph the worst. Joseph was limited to just 21 minutes and two points due to his five fouls, but he did make good plays while he was in the game.
The Pacers did get plenty of help off the bench thanks to the play of Joe Young. Young stepped in to play 31 minutes, scoring 11 on 5-9 shooting. While Young’s scoring and minutes have been similar to his rookie numbers, it’s his contributions that have been far superior. Young is shooting 47% on the year, over 10% better than his first two seasons.
Lance Stephenson led the way for the Pacers second unit with 15 points, hitting three threes and pulling out the air guitar, something Kyle O’Quinn would eventually find offense to, being goaded into a technical foul for his troubles.
Stephenson’s night wasn’t without familiar Lance highlights, but at the same time, Stephenson was surprisingly restrained in his shot selection. Four of Stephenson’s six field goals were assisted on, which is big for a player who has averaged just 0.6 shots per game on catch and shoots. Not surprisingly, it resulted in Stephenson’s fourth best shooting night of the season.
Al Jefferson continues to provide solid minutes for the Pacers off the bench, scoring six points on 3-4 shooting, which was big given how much Domantas Sabonis struggled tonight to find the bottom of the net. Sabonis had 10 rebounds, but was just 2-11 from the floor. Sabonis appeared to be visibly frustrated throughout the night, whether through the misses or the lack of calls he feels he’s getting.
While it wasn’t pretty defensively, tonight’s win helped push the Pacers to 32-25 on the year, seven games over .500 for the first time since February 6 last season, when Thaddeus Young’s wrist injury derailed an otherwise surging Pacers team just before the All-Star break last season.
Indiana will have one more game before this year’s busy All-Star Weekend, traveling to New York to face the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. The Pacers are 3-0 against the Nets this season, but all three games have been hard fought, so the Pacers will have to bring focus on at least one end of the floor again in order to go into the All-Star break on a positive note.