After falling just shy of a wire-to-wire victory on Monday, the Indiana Pacers came through with one tonight, topping the New York Knicks in impressive fashion to pick up back-to-back wins for the first time this season. While this one definitely had intrigue, the Pacers did an excellent job on both ends to keep this one in double figures for much of the night.
The Pacers put the Knicks in their rearview from the tip, scoring the first 11 points of the game, fueled by a monster start from Myles Turner. Turner had the first eight of the game for the Pacers and Chris Duarte made it double figures in just over two minutes, setting the tone for the night.
The first real challenge of the game came when Derrick Rose checked in, cutting the Indiana lead to six late in the first. Duarte responded, kicking off a 9-0 run that swelled the lead up to 15. That kind of response came up time and time again for Indiana, who not only played extremely well offensively, but had their best night of the year on the defensive end as well.
Rick Carlisle deserves a lot of credit for his rotations tonight. Key contributions came from up and down the roster, aided no doubt by the return of Malcolm Brogdon, giving the Pacers four of their five projected starters for the first time since April 18. With the addition of Duarte rounding out this starting five extremely well, it was Torrey Craig off the bench tonight who helped push the lead up to 15 in the first, scoring eight in the quarter.
The Pacers capped off the first in familiar fashion, with Duarte bringing the ball up the court in the closing seconds and pulling up deep for a buzzer-beating three that found nothing but net on the way down.
The Pacers led by 13 midway through the second when Turner left the game with an apparent head injury. Turner had just come up with a big time block on Julius Randle after a made three, but fell hard to the floor on defense, coming up a bit woozy and went back to the locker room for the remainder of the half.
he really thought he was gonna do that on Myles pic.twitter.com/5ntXKztlcC— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) November 3, 2021
Though the Pacers did a solid job keeping the Knicks down double figures for much of the half, foul trouble for Domantas Sabonis as well as Turner’s absence allowed the Knicks to find a bit of life at the end of the second, cutting the lead to nine at 59-50. While there was no word on Turner at halftime, there was no need for any word as he stepped out on the floor for the third, hitting his fourth (and fifth) three of the night to open the lead back up to 11 after New York had sliced it to five to start the third.
The third quarter Pacers were again on the ropes following those threes when RJ Barrett came alive, scoring six in a 10-2 Knicks run that made it a three point game, the closest it had been since Turner’s opening three made it 3-0 Pacers. As was the case all night, however, the Pacers, specifically Caris LeVert, had an answer.
LeVert took charge, scoring seven straight points out of the timeout, benefiting from Indiana’s defense and ball movement.
New York came back once more, again making it a three-point game with just under two to go, but after the teams traded misses for the next 60 seconds, LeVert closed the third with another key bucket, putting Indiana ahead 80-75 heading into the fourth.
Whereas Craig boosted Indiana’s second unit in the first, it was Goga Bitadze who came up in the fourth, joining Sabonis in the front court. Bitadze hit a three to start the fourth, pushing the lead back to eight and came crashing down on Rose to force a turnover and breakaway layup.
GOATGA giving the people what they want. pic.twitter.com/2vvJl4xxoz— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) November 4, 2021
With 6:48 remaining, the Pacers sent Randle to the line, hitting a pair of free throws to make it a 95-91 game. It was then that Turner returned to the game, immediately impacting the game. Sabonis came up with an impressive offensive rebound, feeding Turner for the dunk, then after a New York miss, Sabonis again found Turner, this time trailing at the arc for his sixth triple of the night, putting Indiana up by nine and all but sinking the dagger in the Knicks for the game.
The night wasn’t over for Turner, finding time for one extra three to make it a 105-93 game as the Pacers ran away with this one late, topping the Knicks 111-98, picking up their second straight win.
Throughout the night, the Pacers had an answer to every single New York run, either cutting them off before they could grow into something menacing, or responding to a big run with a big run. That was no doubt aided by how well the Pacers shot the ball from deep tonight, going a steady 16-41 from behind the arc.
That 39% shooting improves to 47% when removing the 0-7 night from Justin Holiday. Holiday was the lone Pacer to have an off night, but that the team was able to control the game in the way they did without his offensive contributions is beyond encouraging. For as often as Holiday as had this team’s back when they’ve needed a big bucket, the team was able to cover for him tonight, almost flexing a tangible margin for error that has simply not been there without some semblance of health.
Defensively, the Pacers did a fantastic job limiting New York on the offensive end. The Knicks scored under 100 points for the first time this season, shooting a season low 5-24 from three point range. Though the Knicks found success at times on the offensive glass, the Pacers got the key rebounds on both ends when they needed to have them.
Turner led the way in that area, as well as just about every other area, scoring 25 points on 7-10 shooting from three point range while leading the Pacers in rebounding (13) and blocks (3). Turner was fluidity personified tonight, channeling Antonio Davis, and letting the game come to him on both ends.
The ball movement helped Turner as well. He was assisted on eight of his nine field goals with the Pacers as a team having another solid night in that category, totaling 26 as a team. They were led by Brogdon, who in his return had 17 points, eight rebound, and seven assists. Brogdon didn’t have enough on his own three point shot (going 0-4), but attacked the rim with plenty of success, scoring all of his points in the paint or at the line.
LeVert meanwhile had five assists of his own, pairing well with his 21 points. LeVert’s fluidity is on display every night, but he joined Turner with three blocks, playing perhaps his best defensive game since joining the Pacers. LeVert’s play in the third quarter in particular is the exact thing that would’ve spelled disaster for Indiana earlier in the season. He logged 31 minutes tonight as well, a season high.
The success of those three helped alleviate Sabonis’s foul trouble, though he did play extremely well late despite eventually fouling out. Sabonis had just 10 points, but with seven rebounds and three assists (including the two crucial dimes to Turner in the fourth), he was still able to make a positive contribution. The Sabonis/Bitadze front line also continues to be intriguing.
Off the bench, Craig led the way with 12 and Bitadze scored eight. T.J. McConnell had just five, but converted on a key corner three in the fourth and totaled up six assists on the night, five of them coming in his opening stretch to either return Indiana to a double figure lead or push a 10-point lead higher. Duarte finished with 10, hitting a pair of threes with five rebounds and two steals.
The return of Brogdon, paired alongside LeVert for the first time this season, gives the Pacers a dimension that, at the very least, teases what they can potentially be as a team despite their otherwise terrible start to the year. Positive news regarding T.J. Warren capped off a very successful night even if he is still expected to be weeks out from a potential return.
The Pacers improve to 3-6 with the win, 3-2 at home and moves them up to 13th in the East after having fallen into the bottom spot last weekend. The downside to having three wins at home and three wins total is that the Pacers are still winless on the road, which isn’t a great spot to be in with eight of their next 10 away from the Fieldhouse. This difficult stretch begins with the first of four games out West, starting with a Friday night matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.