Despite their best efforts, the Indiana Pacers were unable to give away a W against the New York Knicks, holding on late to win the first game back from the All-Star Break. The Pacers started slow and finished in the same manner, a similar story to Indiana’s loss to New York on February 1.
The difference tonight came at the free throw line for the Pacers. While they didn’t score a field goal for the final 5:12 of the game, they shot 11-13 from the line in that same stretch, allowing them to keep a scorching Knicks team at arms’ length. They made their final nine, including six straight to close the game for Domantas Sabonis, who shot 2-4 up until that point. He had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the game.
The ability to hit the free throws in front of them late as New York attempted to extend the game notwithstanding, it was a dreadful showing to start and finish this game. The Pacers had built a steady 22-point lead late in the third quarter with superior effort on both ends, but Mitchell Robinson changed the game in favor of the Knicks with his own energy, giving the Knicks a chance to trim the lead to single digits early in the fourth.
Doug McDermott appeared to right the ship with a four point play after the Knicks cut the lead to nine, but the Pacers proceeded to give it right back (with interest), allowing New York to score seven straight, making it a 91-85 game.
The final bucket of the game for Indiana came in the form of a T.J. Warren reverse layup and-one that capped five straight points from him, again pushing Indiana into a double figure lead.
The shooting of the Knicks, however, kept the door wide open. They hit six fourth quarter threes, more than half their total for the game. The Pacers, meanwhile, continued to languish from deep, shooting a dreadful 8-28. Shooting wasn’t much of a factor early, but when it became one, Indiana had their struggles connecting with consistency.
Part of that was the absence of Victor Oladipo, who left the game late in the third quarter with a sore back. Oladipo had eight points, but five of those came at the end of the first half, when Indiana used a 22-10 run to go up for good. He was just 1-3 from deep, but his ability to hit timely shots may have come in handy when opposite Malcolm Brogdon, who is still pounding the rock without much purpose.
Brogdon had 11 points on 4-14 shooting, including 0-5 from three point range. Many of his threes were late takes at the end of the shot clock, none of which had much of a chance of connecting. His struggles have been part of Indiana’s larger struggles shooting from deep. Where he’s shooting 10-44 since returning against Chicago, the Pacers as a team shooting just 31.2% in that same time period.
While they never found much of a rhythm from beyond the arc, the Pacers did come together for an excellent showing across the later stages of the second and early parts of the third quarter. They outscored the Knicks 45-18 across the middle 17 minutes of the game, limiting the Knicks on the glass while scoring with relative ease on the other end.
So it’s no surprise the game turned when the Pacers were a little sloppier on rebounding. In the first half, they allowed only one offensive rebound. Afterwards, it was four, including five points as a response.
Warren led the way for the Pacers with 27 points, overcoming a slow start to pile on the buckets late. Warren was 10-21 from the floor, even hitting a pair of threes. While he was the go-to offensively, it was his defense that made a difference as Indiana build their lead. Warren had eight rebounds (tying a season high) and also had two steals and a block to lead the starters.
Off the bench, McDermott got things going in the second quarter, scoring seven of his 14 in to open the period, sparking a sputtering Indiana offense. In the first quarter, the Pacers had just 15 points, brandishing a decidedly old school approach of “miss everything outside of the paint,” while somehow managing to miss 60% of their shots in the paint.
That made McDermott’s early production all the more valuable as the game began to also open up for the Knicks, who finished the first quarter with 20 points. Once Indiana went up, thanks to seven straight points from Warren, the Pacers were forced to hold on until a Myles Turner block became a three pointer on the other end, sparking an 8-3 run to close the half.
Though not all that encouraging, especially late, a win is a win for this game. However, the back injury to Oladipo could unsettle the rotation as the Pacers continue their two-game road swing by facing the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.