[Video] Knicks Exorcise Pacer Demons in 92-86 Win

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I remember it like it was yesterday. The Knicks were up three and seemingly well on their way to victory on November 20 in the waning seconds of a home game against the Indiana Pacers. George goes up for a long three, and Shumpert makes a bad error in lightly touching George’s arm, leading to a three-shot foul, overtime, and a crushing home defeat that seemed to start the downward spiral that has been this season. It really didn’t help matters that this loss also occurred on my birthday.

But that was then. Last night, the Knicks team that rolled into Madison Square Garden was a squad riding a six-game win streak predicated on trust, defense and being unselfish with the ball. Outside of a few bad spurts (particularly the third), the Knicks showed their recent run was no fluke in defeating the Pacers 92-86 in Phil Jackson’s first attended game as team president. It was a “fun game” in the sense New York was playing loose, but a “serious game” in the sense the Knicks damn near have to win out to have any chance of making the playoffs.

IS THIS THE 90s???: For most of the night, the hard play and low shooting percentages reminded me of the Ewing-lead Knicks’s battles with the Reggie Miller’s Pacers. New York, despite shooting a wretched 24% in the first quarter and just 36% at the half, still lead most of the way by focusing on offensive rebounding (six in the first half) and forcing six Pacer turnovers. 

For the entire game, the Knicks managed to shoot just 39% and a lowly 24% from downtown. When the Knicks don’t hit their threes, a win is normally out of the question. Tonight showed they could grind out a W through defense and getting to the line (24/29).

BROADWAY BIGS DELIVER: Our big three of Melo, Stoudemire and Chandler set the tone for this win with key contributions. Melo kept Paul George in foul trouble and abused him in the post for several crucial baskets, including a spin move and dunk that put New York up 84-77 with under five minutes remaining. For the game, Melo shot 52% (12/23) for 34 points, had 3 steals and 5 assists. The final stat proved decisive with several of them coming in the fourth via quick passes to Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni.

Stoudemire did most of his damage in the second quarter, helping to spark an 8-0 run that put the Knicks up double digits (47-35). His post moves were too strong and quick for the likes of Luis Scola and Roy Hibbert. His outside jumper also kept the floor spread and made his defender come out, allowing Stat to make powerful drives to the rim. Outside a bad defensive lapse in the third (where Lance Stephenson literally flew right by him on a missed assignment), and his jumper starting to fail him late, Stat had a good game with 21 points.

Tyson Chandler’s (7 points, 14 rebounds) best work last night was on the defensive end and the glass. He had six offensive boards, and put Hibbert back in check after Roy abused Cole Aldrich for 14 points in the third quarter. Chandler essentially shut him down for most of the fourth.

POISE DOESN’T FALTER: Despite blowing a 16-point lead, the Knicks never mentally broke. Even when the Pacers pulled within one point in the fourth, the Knicks always had an answer. The biggest one was Felton hitting a bank shot miracle three-pointer with less than 3 seconds on the shot clock.

That’s not to say the Pacers didn’t have their chances. They had a multiple open three-point attempts from George Hill, Chris Copeland and Paul George. In addition, the Knicks were in the foul penalty with over six minutes left in the game. The Pacers just couldn’t execute — the worst blunder came on a fast break where Lance Stephenson tried to get too fancy and whipped a bad pass to a wide open George Hill, resulting a turnover.

DESTINY NOT IN OUR HANDS: While it’s great to see the Knicks play well, it’s also somewhat infuriating it took this long for it to happen. Now they not only have to keep winning, but also have to hope Atlanta, and possibly even Charlotte, get on an extended losing streak.

[Video] A Touch Foul Away: Pacers Wear Down Knicks in OT

I thought we had the game won. And in overtime, I don’t know, they just walked away with it. – CARMELO ANTHONY

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Iman Shumpert hasn’t gotten any sleep yet. Ahead 89-86 with just 9 seconds left in the game, the Knicks needed one stop to snap a three-game losing streak, and more importantly show themselves that they have the ability to hang with the league’s best teams. Instead what happened was Shumpert committing an absent-mined, slight touch on Paul George’s elbow as he shot a three, allowing him to sink three free throws to push the game into overtime and hand the Knicks a heart-breaking sixth straight home defeat.

As usual, there were positives, but they’re hardly consoling in light of the end result. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at what the Knicks can take out of this game.

UDRIH MAKES HIS CASE: With Raymond Felton again out, Beno Udrih got the starting call and delivered a season-high 18 points, snatched 8 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists. He spaced out the floor with his three-point shooting (3-4 from behind the arc), and hit several circus shots (one late in the 4th to give NY a 87-85 lead) on broken plays. Hopefully his performance prompts Coach Woodson to keep him in the rotation when Felton returns.

JR SMITH COMING AROUND: Outside a late 4th quarter three-point attempt too early in the shot clock, JR had a strong game. He contributed 21 of New York’s 26 bench points and added 5 rebounds. 10 three-point attempts is excessive, but that’s JR and he hit several key ones to keep us in the game.

KNICKS HOLD THEIR OWN WITHOUT MELO AND BARGNANI: The Knicks have had numerous third quarter collapses this season. When Melo and Bargnani had to sit with fouls, there was danger of it happening again. JR Smith picked up the scoring slack and Metta World Peace added good defense to keep Indiana at shooting 32% and take a 64-58 lead into the fourth.

REBOUNDING EDGE: The Knicks should use this game as a blueprint of what they can accomplish on the boards with effort and intensity. Despite the big and bruising Pacer front line, the Knicks held a 52-49 rebounding edge behind 18 rebounds from Carmelo Anthony. Everyone in starting lineup made a concerted effort there including Bargnani, who snatched down 9.

THE DEFLATING MOMENT: Shumpert’s touch foul on George’s three-pointer was absolutely crushing for the team’s psyche. All their energy and confidence disappeared and the Pacers pounced behind George’s hot mid-range shooting and outscored the Knicks 14-7 in the extra period.

Shumpert has already struggled with confidence due to the trade rumors and this will do him no favors. Woodson even chipped in some pointed criticism, calling Shumpert’s foul “lazy.”

MELO LEAVES IT ALL ON THE FLOOR: Melo didn’t have a good shooting night (10-28), but he played his heart out in every aspect of the game. He fought hard for rebounds (9 of his 18 were offensive boards) and even got a key block on George in the closing minute of regulation. It’s hard to even complain about the repeated isolation plays in overtime because he appeared to be the only New York player still fighting for the win.

The Knicks will get three days of rest and return Saturday (November 23) to face the Wizards in DC.

Panic Time – Knicks Remain Hapless On Offense (And Defense), Now in 3-1 Hole to Pacers

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Carmelo Anthony said before last night’s “must-win” game four that the Knicks would learn a lot about their character. Based on that quote, we’d have to conclude that the Knicks are a bad shooting, whiny,, unfocused and flawed group. Now that is a tad harsh, but Knicks fans the world over are calling for the blood of a bunch of teams members from Coach Woodson on down. After a second abysmal effort, this time resulting in a 93-82 defeat, the Knicks find themselves in a daunting 3-1 deficit  headed back to Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

I won’t sit here and claim to have all the answers, but the glaring concerns I witnessed last night need to be corrected if this team has any shot of extending the series.

 

CAN ANYONE SCORE???: There were omens from the outset that the Knicks were in trouble. Iman Shumpert, trying to help lift the scoring load off Carmelo Anthony, went 1-5 in the first quarter. No one else was in sync and the team was shooting 9% at the seven-minute mark. Our offensive ineptitude negated the six turnovers Indy committed in the opening 12 minutes, allowing them to have a nice 23-16 lead courtesy of a 9-2 run to end the quarter. And while Roy Hibbert wasn’t killing it on offense, he managed to still be a force with 5 rebounds (4 offensive).

 

STOP DOUBLING THE POST: Remember how thrilling the Knicks look when they’re hitting three-pointers? The role has been reversed over the last two games since Coach Woodson has insisted that the Indiana bigs (West, Hibbert) get double-teamed every time they get the ball in the post. They simply pass the ball out, where it’s moved around the perimeter to an open man. For this game, it was George Hill and Lance Stephenson eating off this stupid strategy. Too often we saw the deja vu image of a Knicks guard scrambling to the perimeter too late and the Pacers extending their lead via another open trey.

The Pacer threes, combined with their 30-18 edge in rebounding, allowed them to push their lead to 48-34 at halftime.

Do you think any adjustments were made? Of course not — more doubling in the second half, and more momentum-crushing open threes kept the Knicks subdued for the rest of the game.

 

WHEN OUR FATE WAS SEALED: Despite how bad we looked, the Knicks were able to get within eight early in the fourth behind some much-needed three-point shooting from Chris Copeland. That potential run went to hell when Woody inexplicably benched him to insert Jason Kidd, who literally hasn’t scored a single point in the last month.

So what happened? How about Kidd leaves Lance Stephenson open for a three that pushes the lead back to 11. And on the Pacers next possession, Stephenson makes the driving layup to put the lead at 74-61. You could tell the team’s spirit was broken and the game was essentially over at that point.

 

OFFENSE WOES CONTINUE: JR Smith continued the worst shooting slump of his career, going 1-8 in the first half and 7/22 for the game. Melo had 24 points but on 9/23 shooting and got held scoreless in the fourth before fouling out. Raymond Felton contributed 14 points and did his best to look for his shot.

The team as a whole shot 35% and look demoralized for most of this game. Our three-point shooting, which is essential for this team, was a wretched 8/28 for 28%.

 

CAN WE TURN IT AROUND: The Knicks certainly have the right mix of veterans to come back, but I don’t think they have confidence that they can beat the Pacers. As has been the story all year, the team deflates when faced with tough, physical defenses. With Melo and JR being the only ones who can consistently create their own shots, the Pacers can opt to zero in on them with double teams when they enter the paint, and remain confident they can be contained with man to man defense anywhere else. The other Knicks rarely cut to basket or move off screens, making our offense very predictable when the three-point shot is taken away.

Woody’s stubborn rotations, coupled with bad court leadership from our team captains, has brought us to the brink of elimination. To at least go down fighting, Pablo Prigioni needs to get Kidd’s minutes. Chris Copeland and Steve Novak are defensive liabilities, but at this point our scoring drough is more dire. Play them to space the floor. Dust off Camby and see how he does guarding Hibbert. At the very least, he knows how to box out and block a shot. 

Judgement day is tomorrow, guys. Now it’s really a must-win.

Knicks Light Up Pacers On 36-4 2nd Half Run, Take Game 2 105-79

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Before game 2 against the Indiana Pacers, Carmelo Anthony said the disappointing game 1 defeat came down to a lack of effort. The Knicks didn’t have that problem last night, as Melo himself dropped 22 second half points, Iman Shumpert was all hustle, and Pablo Prigioni provided an early fourth quarter spark to give the Knicks a 105-79 blowout and their most impressive win this post-season.

Game 1 left a lot of people wondering if the Knicks were “tough enough” to break down the league’s #1 defense in the Pacers, and NY showed, as they have all season, that they’re a team built on resiliency.

 

1ST HALF EXECUTION: For the majority of the first half, the Knicks answered the call of hitting shots and providing their own strong defense. They forced the Pacers into multiple turnovers and converted on most of their open shots. With just 3:36 left in the half, the Knicks were up 13 points.

Unfortunately, the Pacer defense combined with some Knick mental lapses left New York scoreless for the rest of the half. The Pacers were able to chip their deficit to only five points (47-42) headed into the third. However, the Knicks had reason to be encouraged, as their lead was predicated on ball movement and balanced contributions as Melo and JR were still struggling from the field.

 

3RD QUARTER TEST: The Knicks got a legit test over within the first 3-5 minutes of the third. Their shots stopped falling, and the Pacers started to nail three-pointers courtesy of Lance Stephenson and George Hill to take their first lead at 64-62. The crowd was antsy, as there was the fear the Knicks would revert to iso ball and get ran off the court.

Impressively, the Knicks never got rattled, and Melo secured the lead back courtesy of momentum-changing three-point play dunk over Jeff Pendergraph. That play brought new life to the Knicks defense, and on the next Pacer possession a Raymond Felton-Kenyon Martin trap in the backcourt resulted in a turnover and alley-oop dunk. Jason Kidd had another scoreless night, but found other ways to contribute in saving a deflection to find Tyson Chandler for an easy dunk and cap a 10-2 NY run to end the quarter. The Knicks held a 72-66 going into the fourth.

 

PACERS GET BURIED: The Pacers had been shooting well over 50% for most of the game, but came crashing down to the earth in the last 12 minutes. The Pacers had one of the league’s worst offenses during the season, and it was displayed in all its ugly glory as Indy went 0/11 to start and didn’t score from the field until three minutes were left in the quarter!

While the Pacers struggled, Pablo Prigioni furthered the Knicks run by hitting a pullup three and a short jumper in the lane to extend the lead to 77-66. Chants of “Pablo!” rained down from the Garden crowd, but it would be Melo who finished off the game. Melo had 16 points during an astounding 36-4 run to completely blow the game open to a 92-66 lead.

The last five minutes were garbage time and the starters thankfully got a decent rest. And it’s not like the Pacers got any reprieve when our bench was emptied — Quentin Richardson got in on the run with two treys of his own.

 

SHUMPERT THE BEAST: I think it’s safe to say Shump is fully back from his ACL tear based on the below play.

There were still some naysayers after Shump’s great play in the last series against Paul Pierce, citing Pierce’s age. This series so far shows Shumpert is coming into his own as a complete player. Once his jumper and finishing at the rim gets more consistent, I have no doubt the Knicks will have a future All-Star. In 28 minutes, Shumpert delivered 15 points (7/11 from the field), 6 rebounds and 1 steal.

 

ANYTIME NOW, JR: Our Sixth Man of the Year is still in this horrible shooting slump. Last night he went 3/15 from the field (1/7 from downtown). You can tell his confidence is really shaken and even his free throws aren’t a sure thing anymore. Nothing lasts forever, so we just have to patiently wait until he gets out of this. Thankfully, with guys like Felton, Shumpert and Prigioni picking up the slack, and Amar’e Stoudemire returning this weekend, JR doesn’t have overwhelming pressure to get it together. But when he does, the Knicks can potentially blow this series open.

 

REST!: I normally hate long breaks between games, but this time it’s extremely important to our squad. Melo’s hurt shoulder needs all the rest it can get. The Pacers have made it a point to test it out by hammering Melo in the paint. He was grimacing all throughout the game, but of course hitting his shots made the pain less potent. These three days will also serve to help Tyson Chandler, who you can tell is still battling the lingering effects of the bulging disc in his neck. Remember, the Knicks went right into this series one game removed from eliminating Boston.

Game 3 kicks off this Saturday and should also mark the long-awaited return of Amar’e Stoudemire.

The Free Fall Continues – Pacers Hammer Knicks 125-91

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This team, man. What else is there to say? All-Star Break, sufficient rest, and the Knicks still delivered one of their worst all-around performances for the year. Having now lost four of their last five games and just a half-game removed from third place, now is the time to be very concerned about where the Knicks are headed over the second half of the season.

 

PUTRID OFFENSE AND DEFENSE: The Pacers are known for their phenomenal defense but also for their struggles to score. In fact, they are one of the lower teams in the league when it comes to scoring. Last night you’d have no clue as damn near the entire team lit up the Knicks to the tune of 53% shooting and over 100 points while still in the third quarter.

The Pacers were getting open treys at will since the Knick guards couldn’t fight through picks to close out. It’s become a tradition as of late to have some unheralded guard drop a career or season high against the Knicks, and last night it was Orlando Johnson (8 pts, 2-2 from downtown) and Sam Young (7 pts) — the latter could be seen slamming home windmill dunks in the fourth.

The Knicks offense (33.7% shooting) was pathetic with zero ball movement and hoping for Melo to be hot (he wasn’t). Melo went 7/21 for just 15 points and no one else stepped to fill the void except Tyson Chandler (19 pts, 11 rebounds), who got 11 of his points at the line. Amar’e Stoudemire had 7 points and just one field goal as he struggled to handle Tyler Hansborough and was nearly ejected for yelling at a ref.

Raymond Felton tried (12 pts) to make things happen, but the pick and roll with Chandler was well scouted and there was zero cutting from any of the players around him. The guards of Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd and JR Smith would go a combined 2-17 for just 9 points.

 

GAME ENDS IN THE 2ND QUARTER: This game didn’t feel promising from the outset. A four point deficit in the first felt like 10 the way the offense was going. The Pacers bench took full advantage and outscored the Knicks 44-26 in the second quarter to take a 77-44 lead into halftime.

 

WOODSON REMAINS STUBBORN: Coach Woodson had a terse rebuttal when asked in the post-game if he’d consider changing the starting lineup. He said it was a matter of getting better, not changing lineups. Has Woody gone mad? Going back to when Felton went down with the hand injury, Kidd has been a disaster in the starting lineup. Over his last three games, he’s only made one shot and is getting torched on defense. Last night it was Lance Stephenson (14 pts) abusing him. And it was sad to see Iman Shumpert trying to be play small forward and at times having to body up much bigger guys like David West.

This lineup is not going to cut it. Woody’s love affair with Kidd will have this team looking at the fifth seed if this keeps up. First off, Kidd needs to be benched, Shumpert to shooting guard, Stat to power forward and Melo at the 3. We need as many offensive weapons as possible and as we’ve seen, just dropping it in to Melo will not suffice.

 

A MENTALITY OVERHAUL: For a team that likes to administer bully ball, they sure do not handle it well when a team gets physical with them. Once again, the Knicks resorted to whining (Stat), and cheap shots when the game got away from them. JR Smith got ejected for his shenanigans with Stephenson, and the team just seemed to literally bend over like we’ve seen far too many times this year.

We’ll see if this was a wake-up call on Friday when the Knicks look for revenge against the Toronto Raptors.

[youtube http://youtu.be/26pR2UedLNY]

No Melo, No Offense – Knicks Can’t Score in 4th, Fall to Pacers 81-76

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The score in the end was respectable, but watching that wretched fourth quarter last night if you’re a Knicks fan was not. After some nice circus shot drives from JR Smith that gave NY a slim 60-58 lead going into the final stanza, the Knicks just fell apart of the offensive end. How bad was it? At one stretch the Knicks were shooting 1-11 in the quarter, and at another NY was on the wrong end of an 18-6 run. The team scored no field goals over a 7-minute stretch. To say Melo was missed is an understatement considering NY posted their lowest scoring total of the season thus far with 76 points.

And as if we didn’t need another injury, Marcus Camby re-aggravated his foot and didn’t play down the stretch (MRI scheduled for today). That lack of size down low was a key reason why Pacers backup center Ian Mahinmi killed us on the boards in the fourth (6 rebounds, 2 offensive) and dropped 13 points.

It seems like nothing has gone right in recent weeks. When the offensive is good, the defense is trash. When the defense is tough (like it was for most of last night), the offense is putrid. There’s no time to sulk, as the Knicks are back in action tonight against the Bulls, who’ve already beat us up twice this year.

Melo better come out on fire tonight. I don’t want to see any whining to the refs from anyone in orange and blue.

Home Workout: Knicks Easily Dispose of Pacers 88-76

Another game, another double-digit win for the Knicks. The offense wasn’t exactly on fire, but  the Knicks defense, forcing 19 turnovers and nabbing 9 steals, held the Pacers to 76 points (the lowest the Knicks have held a team this season) for a 12 point victory.

Melo got back to his fast starting ways, dropping 12 points in the first quarter to give the Knicks a 21-18 lead. The defense held serve in the second, holding the Pacers to just 12 points to push the lead to 41-30 at halftime.

Fouls were still a problem for Melo this game; he had to sit early in the third when he picked up two quick fouls in the lane trying to guard Tyler Hansbrough. Novak came in and helped the offense with a few 3s, but also hurt the defensive closeouts, as Paul George got hot from 3-point range and sinked three in the quarter. The Pacers hovered around the 9-point deficit mark but missed 4 free throws down the stretch and Rasheed Wallace sunk a 3 to give the Knicks a 68-56 edge despite a 26-point quarter from Indiana.

New York put the Pacers in their place early in the fourth behind several JR Smith jumpers and Melo forcing fouls inside despite getting blocked several times. Marcus Camby got some valuable minutes and made sure Roy Hibbert stayed locked up (Camby got a massive block inside on Roy). JR got his own block on David West which lead to a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 79-60. Later, a Novak 3 gave NY a 86-66 advantage, leading to the starters hitting the bench and the Pacers challenging no further in garbage time.

The shooting was weak from both squads: NY shot 36% and Indiana 39%. The defense was the difference-maker and the fact Indiana has been lost offensively without leading scorer Danny Granger. Melo lead all scorers with 26 points, followed on the Knicks end by JR Smith (13), and Raymond (11) as the only other guys to score in double digits. Paul George lead Indiana with 20.

On a very happy note, this was the first game we were NOT outrebounded; we won the boards battle (barely) 48-47. Hey, we gotta start somewhere. It was a nice bounce-back win from the battering we took from the Grizzlies and we have a pretty favorable run for the rest of the week (New Orleans, Dallas, Houston and Detroit) before the big showdown next Monday at MSG 2 (The Barclays Center) to face the Brooklyn Nets.

Next up is a road game tomorrow against the Hornets.