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Pacers’ starters come together in blowout win over Knicks

Despite trade rumors, all five of Indiana’s starters had big nights, led by Chris Duarte with 23 as the Pacers crush New York 122-102.

NBA: New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On the first basket of the night for the Indiana Pacers, Domantas Sabonis looked off Caris LeVert in transition, opting instead to stare down Alec Burks the entire way down the lane, throwing down the dunk.

This would wind up setting the tone for the Pacers all night. Indiana scored 12 straight off this basket, taking the lead for good in the opening minutes. As would be more or less the flow all night, the Pacers led 17-8 when the New York Knicks climbed back into the game, scoring eight straight.

With the lead just one, Chris Duarte ran off five straight points, assisted to Sabonis on a three, and got to the line for a pair of free throws. Eight points later, the Pacers had pushed their lead back up to nine. Duarte scored 14 in the first quarter on 5-5 shooting, getting there on some impressive buckets to boot.

Indiana led by seven after one, pushing their lead into double figures early in the second. That lead would again dissipate on a 6-0 Knicks run, but following a through the legs breakaway dunk by Obi Toppin, the Pacers responded with an 8-0 run of their own to once again make it a double figure game.

Back-to-back threes from Myles Turner and Oshae Brissett gave Indiana a 17-point lead late in the half, but a shaky close to the half allowed New York to trim off four points heading into the break. The Pacers finished the first 24 minutes with 70 points, shooting 60% in the process.

Not only was the first half a smashing success, the Pacers also avoided their third quarter struggles, drawing early fouls and forcing New York into three turnovers, leading to the first 10 points of the second half going in Indiana’s favor, extending their lead to a game high 23. Though New York again had a run in them to trim the lead to a more manageable zone, the Pacers never relented, topping the Knicks 26-19 in the quarter to head into the fourth up 20.

Turner and Sabonis would put a nice bow on Indiana’s night with about four minutes remaining in the fourth, hitting back-to-back threes to extend Indiana’s lead to 25. Kelan Martin pushed the Indiana advantage to 120-93, garbage time favoring New York to break triple digits and post a final score of 122-102 Pacers.

After the game, Sabonis addressed the reports and rumors regarding the Pacers leaning towards trades and rebuilding the roster by saying it didn’t have any effect on their play tonight. That certainly appeared to be the case, if not having a morale boosting effect, with all five starters reaching double figures in the win.

The Pacers were no doubt aided by successful shooting, finishing at 53.5% for the game, their fourth best shooting night of the year. While shots going in always help, they also did well to put themselves in position to succeed. Indiana scored 60 points in the paint, cutting with success all night against New York’s defense.

Duarte led the way with 23 points on 9-11 shooting, hitting both of his threes. Duarte not only hit (mostly) everything, he was on display as a playmaker, dishing a team high tying six assists. The Pacers as a whole finished with 27 assists, 22 of those coming from four of the starters, all posting five or more.

Duarte played so well that even Turner was surprised to hear how well it went in his halftime interview.

Turner meanwhile finished with 22 points on 8-13 shooting, hitting a trio of threes in the process. The Pacers were 10-27 from deep, again shying away from volume and capitalizing on quality looks that went in at a solid rate. Turner not only did well on the offensive end, sending home this beauty of a dunk...

...but carried that athleticism over to the defensive end where he had two demoralizing trailing blocks midway through the fourth as the Knicks were on their last legs.

The second block led to a fast break from Duarte to LeVert, flushing the alley oop to extend the lead back up to 19 after New York had cut it as close as 15.

Indiana excelled in transition tonight, outscoring the Knicks 26-16, taking full advantage of the Knicks playing on the second night of a back-to-back, taking away their will with each outlet from Malcolm Brogdon to Sabonis.

With Brogdon (16 points, five assists) and LeVert (15 points, six assists) reaching double figures (and high assist numbers), the Pacers didn’t have to force too much on their second unit, though Brad Wanamaker and Oshae Brissett in particular each punched in some nice stretches.

Wanamaker scored six and Brissett had five (including a timely three), but the bench was led by Martin, scoring eight. His steal and fast break dunk would extend the lead into double figures the rest of the way.

It was all highlights for the Pacers tonight, building masterfully on their win over Washington despite everything that came out following that win regarding the future of the franchise and the potential season ending loss of T.J. McConnell. The Pacers absolutely plowed through that, getting a dominating win over New York in front of both Antonio Davis and Metta World Peace.

The win is Indiana’s second straight, the fourth time they’ve reached that mark on the season. The previous three times all resulted in losses, halting whatever good will the Pacers had made in their outings and almost forcing them back at square one each time. They’ll have an opportunity at home to break through into their third straight win, hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Like Washington and New York before them, the Mavericks will enter Gainbridge Fieldhouse in something of a slump. Though they won tonight, they’re just 3-8 in their last 11, scoring under 100 in six of those losses.