There were too many missed opportunities tonight for the Indiana Pacers to come up with a win against the New York Knicks, but that’s a fairly remarkable sentiment to have given where this game was with 7:40 remaining in the third quarter. Down 25 and mounting injuries, the Pacers trailed by just three with 1:22 remaining in the fourth, but couldn’t complete the comeback, dropping their third straight road game.
It took a long time for the Pacers to find a rotation that worked, namely because prior to the game, both Aaron Nesmith and Oshae Brissett were late scratches. Add to that an even later scratch for Myles Turner with back spasms and Indiana was left scrambling. They elevated James Johnson to the starting lineup and used 10 of their 11 available players in the first quarter to try and figure something out to no avail, as New York quickly extended their lead to double figures, 16 after one.
The deficit quickly swelled to 21 to open the second quarter when the bench Pacers ran off eight straight to make it a 13-point game. That didn’t last long, however, as New York punched back, pushing the lead back to 20 and above, leading 62-41 at halftime, holding Indiana to 40% shooting for the half and 4-19 from three.
Further tinkering of the lineup started Bennedict Mathurin in place of Johnson in the second half, but even that didn’t seem to help matters much as the lead was pushed out to 25 at 78-53. Mathurin, working through a terrible shooting slump, hit his first three in four games, which led to Buddy Hield connecting on three straight himself.
Mathurin would complete a three point play afterwards, helping to make it a 16-point game. Though Indiana wasn’t stringing together stops in this stretch, they were able to chip nine points off the deficit in about three minutes, breathing life into their dreadful offensive performance to that point.
The lead was cut into even further when Isaiah Jackson blocked Quentin Grimes at the rim, leading to a breakaway layup from Tyrese Haliburton, capping four straight from him to make it an 86-72 game.
Haliburton again attacked the rim on the following possession, but was this time blocked by Isaiah Hartenstein, going to the ground and losing his shoe after Hartenstein came down on Haliburton’s foot. Haliburton would get up, but not without a noticeable limp, carrying his shoe back to the locker room.
Haliburton would not return to the game due to a sore left knee, which may cause its own concerns following comments from Rick Carlisle after the game. IN the meantime, however, the Pacers continued to push, scoring 40 points in the third to trail 95-81 heading into the fourth quarter.
T.J. McConnell was in prime form tonight, scoring the first four of the quarter and assisting to Goga Bitadze. A miss from Chris Duarte fell right into Jalen Smith’s hands, laying it in to complete an 8-0 start to the fourth, somehow making it a six-point game when the Knicks called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Indiana made it an 11-0 run, cutting the lead to three courtesy of Bitadze.
The Knicks shook off their struggles to start the fourth by connecting on a pair of threes, but Indiana never let the game get back to double figures, holding New York scoreless for over three minutes after falling behind 105-96. Unfortunately, the Pacers were getting stops, but converting them to points on the other end, missing three straight three pointers in that time.
Even still, the Pacers were still able to inch their way back into it again, scoring seven straight to make it a two-point game, with Hield scoring the final five of the run. Jalen Brunson was the difference late for the Knicks, responding with seven straight Knicks points to extend it to seven. Hield locked in a response, connecting on his seventh three of the night, drawing a foul in the process to again make it a three-point deficit.
FOUR-POINT PLAY.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 12, 2023
Buddy Hield knocks down his seventh three and makes the ensuing free throw. pic.twitter.com/G8azX5dPXG
After a stop, Hield was unable to connect on an eighth, getting the Knicks in transition. Grimes had a solid look at the basket, but opted to pull the ball out and kill time. What could’ve been a detrimental decision turned out to be a perfect one, with the ball winding up back in the hands of Grimes for a wide open elbow three that sunk the dagger and sealed the win for the Knicks.
Somehow, the Pacers found their way back into it, outscoring the Knicks 72-57 in the second half and 60-41 after trailing by 25. Hield finished with 31 points and eight rebounds, scoring 26 in the second half. Mathurin meanwhile had 14 in the second to wrap up a 20-point outing, both guys getting their final buckets at the rim, opting for wide open layups over contested threes.
McConnell was huge down the stretch, providing the energy boost the Pacers sorely needed with guys like Nesmith and Brissett missing action. He finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, picking up two steals in the process. His rebounding proved key at times in preventing second chance opportunities. While Indiana allowed 12 offensive boards, the Knicks had just 11 second chance points. Bitadze was another huge boost late, stepping in and scoring five points with three boards, a steal, and a block, nearly forcing turnovers on the inbounds, McConnell style.
Though Carlisle and his staff found a workable lineup late behind McConnell and Bitadze, getting a defensive boost with Andrew Nembhard and Duarte and filling in Hield and Mathurin from there, it was a bit of an adventure the rest of the way despite a nice steal and finish by Smith and a block leading to transition points from Jackson.
Haliburton would be among the players struggling to find any sort of consistency throughout the night, but appeared to find some positives in the third quarter, scoring six and assisting on Hield’s three consecutive triples, finishing with 15 points and seven assists before leaving the game with the knee injury.
That led to Carlisle speaking after the game, saying Haliburton would be leaving on crutches and would be evaluated tomorrow in hopes that it’s not a long-term issue.
Carlisle goes on to say Tyrese Haliburton will “leave the building using crutches” after a fall in the third quarter left him with a sore left elbow and sore left knee. Said Haliburton will get looked at tomorrow and the hope is it isn’t anything that’s a long-term issue. https://t.co/QGI6AH5k4l— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 12, 2023
That uncertainty will linger with the Pacers until they can get a more clear diagnosis, throwing Haliburton’s availability for their weekend back-to-back up in the air. They’ll first face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday before a tough matchup against Memphis on Saturday.