Given the ups and downs throughout this road trip, it was nice to see the Indiana Pacers leave little doubt in a win, taking care of matters against the New York Knicks to wrap up 3-2 record on their five game tour. The Pacers led most of the way, but were forced to contend with the Knicks in the second quarter when they took a 46-45 as part of an 8-0 run.
With the game tied at 52-52 heading into the half’s final two minutes, the Pacers put a stamp on not only the half, but really the game, scoring the final 12 points and putting them up double figures for good. They extended their lead to 21 halfway through the third, though again, New York got a boost, with Emmanuel Mudiay leading the way, cutting the lead to as little as 11.
Indiana never let the game get any closer, slowly expanding it through the fourth quarter to grab their 28th win of the season. Despite being a fairly comfortable showing on the scoreboard, the Pacers weren’t really at their sharpest, but had such great success in short bursts that they were able to keep their struggles from coming back to them.
They effectively won the game on the stretch surrounding halftime. The 12-0 run to close the first half was a perfect 5-5 showcase, forcing New York into long jumpers and getting rebounds on the missed threes. The success continued into the third, pushing the lead to 21 on 7-8 shooting, led by easy play at the rim by Domantas Sabonis, opening things up for Bojan Bogdanovic outside.
Sabonis led the way for the Pacers with 22 points and 15 rebounds, going 9-14 from the field, each make coming in the restricted area, be it on post ups or flashy pick and roll plays.
As a team, the Pacers scored 58 points in the paint, helping them to 52% shooting on the night. They had 11 offensive rebounds, seven between Sabonis and Thaddeus Young, leading to 17 second chance points. Young in particular filled up the stat sheet with 13 points and six boards, also coming up with four steals. The Pacers scored on three of those four, helping them to a 17-11 fast break advantage.
Four of the five starters reached double figures, including an efficient 19-point night from Victor Oladipo. Oladipo shot 8-13, including 3-5 from deep. He had six assists, but nearly gave away as many possessions on turnovers, finishing with a team high five, 35% of the team’s totals. He did make a positive impact on the game despite the turnovers, hitting back-to-back threes during Indiana’s 12-0 run to close the first half, and set the tone early with a big time jam on Mario Hezonja.
After Oladipo hit two threes to close the first half, Bogdanovic stepped out of the break by hitting two of his own to help push the lead towards 21. He capped the run in the first half with his own jam, finishing with 15 points, shooting 3-5 from deep.
Darren Collison was the only starter not in double figures, but finished with 10 assists with just one turnover. He picked up half of those during the fabled 2nd/3rd quarter run. He also recorded the only block of the night for the Pacers on a breakaway opportunity for the Knicks.
Though there was a block for the first time in three games, there was still little encouraging in terms of limiting an opposing team in the paint. The Knicks finished with 48 points inside, all while hitting 14 threes. They also managed to score 23 points off of Indiana turnovers, matching the total the Pacers would score despite committing more turnovers in the game. Indiana did find success in forcing turnovers, especially early, goading the Knicks into seven first quarter turnovers, including three on their first three possession.
The Pacers also allowed 44 bench points to the Knicks, but ultimately came away with the 45-44 win thanks to a last possession three from Aaron Holiday late in the fourth quarter. As a side note, that three helped the Pacers complete the four quarter sweep of the Knicks.
As for the bench, tonight’s performance was much more in line with what the Pacers need with Sabonis logging minutes with the starting unit. No one had a breakout game, but everyone provided solid contributions off the bench. Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans each reached double figures with 12 while Kyle O’Quinn, Cory Joseph, and T.J. Leaf reached six each, all shooting an efficient 3-4.
It was the first double figure game from McDermott since December 28 and the second straight for Evans, though the latter continues to struggle in finishing at the rim, finishing 4-12 on the night, going just 1-4 in the paint. Joseph didn’t attempt a shot until the closing stages of the third quarter, but his jumper to close that period was big in giving the Pacers a 14-point lead after the Knicks had fought back in the game.
The bench helped close out the win beginning with that jumper. O’Quinn would score four of his six in the early stages of the fourth, assisting to Evans on his second three, helping push the lead back up to 17. Leaf got another game of extended play and had one of his best performances with four rebounds and two assists. Two of those boards were on the offensive end, getting his own highlight dunk on a putback.
The Pacers did well to open the second half of the season with a win. Even though the road trip had some frustrating moments, it still proved a winning one, even more tonight as they got help in the standings as Milwaukee and Philadelphia each lost, pairing well with a Boston loss last night.
The Pacers improve to 19-3 against teams below .500, which are exactly the games they have to win if they hope to stay out of the 4-5 range. Returning home, the Pacers will get a bit of an extended rest before opening up a five-game home stand. They’ll welcome in another team below .500 in the first game back, hosting the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.