[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.

Turned Back at the Rim: Pacers Eliminate Knicks In Six

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It still hurts two days later. As you all have noted, this site was quiet on a recap of the Knicks-Pacers elimination game yesterday. I was still wrapping my head around the disappointment of the game. Yes, the Knicks went down swinging (well, some of us did). But considering the level of talent assembled for our “win now” motto, the strong feeling of what could have been remains with most Knicks fans. I wasn’t one of those people who thought this squad was going to win the championship this year, but I did see a team that could make the Eastern Conference finals and give a considerable challenge to the Miami Heat. So what went wrong?

 

SURVIVING THE FIRST HALF: The Knicks offense was again in struggle mode for the first 24 minutes (35% shooting). JR Smith shot 1/6 and Raymond went 0/5. Luckily for NY, Melo was on and kept his team within striking distance (12 points in the first, 20 at the half on 8/16 shooting).

The other reason the Knicks were on the wrong side of a 55-47 score was the rebounding and fouling. The Pacers were getting all the hustle plays and crashing the boards (at one point a 18-5 edge). Indy was very focused while other players, most notably Tyson Chandler and JR Smith, were cyring to the refs, earning Tyson a tech late. The Knicks found themselves in the foul penalty around the 8-minute and had an astounding 16 fouls in the second quarter.

 

MELO AND SHUMP’S DRAMATIC 3RD QUARTER: The Pacers got the lead to 13 and the feeling was this game was about to be blown open at any moment.

Iman Shumpert had other plans.

Shump detonated for three consecutive threes to bring the Knciks within one (69-70). JR came alive for his own trey, and Shump hit yet another one to tie the game at 79.

Melo was on fire himself, at one point being 4-4 in the quarter and ending up with 15 points in those 12 minutes. A driving layup in the final 30 seconds briefly gave the Knicks a 81-79 lead. When the quarter ended, the score was tied at 81 and the stage was sent for a drama-filled finish.

 

THE BLOCK: Might as well get right to it. The below play from Roy Hibbert was the defining moment of the game (even more than his great rebounding and 20-plus points). Melo went up as hard as possible and got summarily rejected. From there, he became reluctant to keep that same aggressiveness inside and it led to three consecutive turnovers on his part (one of which resulted in a costly three-point play courtesy of Lance Stephenson over JR Smith for a 95-92 Pacers lead).

The Pacers used the momentum from Hibbert’s play for a 9-0 run that pretty much sealed the deal.

DISAPPEARING ACTS: Melo had 39 points in this game so even with some glaring mistakes, I can live with his effort. Shumpert as well. The rest of the team is where I have issues.

Tyson Chandler (2 points, 6 rebounds) has been abysmal this entire series and after spouting his mouth off in the media about the team’s play, he goes out and makes Roy Hibbert look like Hakeem Olajuwon for the second time. I watched in the disgust as he fumbled point-blank putbacks and failed to box out.

Felton disappointed me the most in going 0/7 from the field and managing just two points. His offense, and more importantly his playmaking, was sorely missed.

JR ended up with 15 points, but on 4/15 shooting. Some in the media have chosen to focus on Melo’s 2/7 shooting effort in the fourth, but not noting the several drives for open kickouts he got to Smith. JR couldn’t hit from the three when it mattered, and the rest is history.

Amar’e Stoudemire only got 5 mintues (none in the fourth) and managed 2 points for the game. Sure, we needed scoring, but Stat’s subpar defense and rebounding would have made the Hibbert feasting even worse.

 

TIME FOR CHANGE?: I’ve heard everything from fire Woodson to blowing up the roster of everyone except Melo and Shumpert. We definitely need to make some serious adjustments in regard to offensive creativity, strengthening our rebounding, and team defense IQ.

One thing I refuse to do is call this season a failure. Never at any time this season did we have our team completely healthy, yet we still managed our first 50-plus win season in well over a decade. With everyone at their best, this is easily a 60-win team.

Now if we can see a healthy Knicks team for next year is the question. More on that, and Stat’s comments on his team contributions, later today.

Not In Our House! Knicks Hold Off Elimination to Pacers at MSG

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks

Not in our house! Who do you think we are, the Brooklyn Nets? The Knicks dug deep and took advantage of the Pacers missing their point guard George Hill to stay alive with a 85-75 win at Madison Square Garden. The motto is take it one game at a time, and New York made some improvements that we’ll hopefully see in Indiana on Saturday.

 

DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: It only took us being sent to the brink of elimination for Coach Mike Woodson to realize the constant post double-teaming and defensive switching was a death sentence against Indiana. Chandler didn’t score much (2 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks), but in the first half he played Hibbert straight up and protected the paint. This killed Indy’s ability to find open treys and forced everyone else to become playmakers, resulting in them shooting 27% in the first quarter and 29% for the half.

The Knicks weren’t exactly on fire themselves, but JR Smith was slowly finding his shot (9 points on 3/5 first half shooting) and Melo kept the team in front with 15 first half points. Melo contributed to Roy Hibbert getting in foul trouble which opened up the paint. Unfortunately, he Knicks didn’t close the first and second quarters particularly strong and had to settle for a 40-34  halftimelead.

 

THE DEFINING PLAY: The 3rd quarter looked shaky early on with the Pacers hitting back to back threes to pull within two (42-40). To make matters worse, Tyson Chandler picked up a bad fourth foul sending him to the bench. But from there, Raymond Felton (12 points) came alive and began working smooth pick n’ rolls with K-Mart (7 points) that lead to layups and a key fourth foul on Hibbert. Chris Copeland’s three-point offense lead to some breathing room (53-44) and set the stage for the biggest sequence of the game.

JR Smith turned the ball over leading to a 2-on-1 Indy fast break. DJ Augstin blew the layup, but Paul George recovered on the perimeter and drove right back to the basket to miss his own contested layup.  The Knicks raced back and Felton found Copeland open for a three. He missed, but Felton secured a hard rebound and kicked it to an open JR, who also missed. This time, Copeland snatched the offensive rebound inside and nailed a baby hook to extend the lead to 59-48, the largest of the game for the Knicks to cap a 12-4 run.

From that point on, I felt highly confident the Knicks would keep their poise.

 

COPELAND ARRIVES: After his bad play against the Celtics, Woodson have lost all faith in Copeland. This was the reason he only looked Cope’s way again out of the desperation of avoiding elimination. We saw last night that was probably Woody’s biggest mistake of the series.

The Pacers had been able to focus on Melo and JR since our lineups were composed of guys who weren’t offensive threats (Jason Kidd glaringly stands out). With Cope out there draining threes (13 points, 3/4 from downtown), the floor opened up and it allowed Melo and even JR to work better without multiple Pacers being so quick to collapse on them.

The biggest Copeland moment for me was seeing him barking at Amar’e Stoudemire about a missed defensive assignment. That let everyone know he wasn’t deferring to anyone not pulling their weight.

 

STAT’S CONTRIBUTIONS: Speaking of Stat (2 points, 2 rebounds), it seems most people are realizing there isn’t much he’s going to be able to do unless we make it do the conference finals. It took him close to the 10 games to get back to form in January after the first injury. For now, all I hope for is that he’s not a defensive liability in his limited minutes.

 

JR IMPROVES:  Our Sixth Man of the Year isn’t completely himself yet, but he helped way more than he hurt last night. JR went 4/11 for 13 points.We got a few bad shots, but he kept his head in the game. The public Rihanna dis may be just the wake-up call he needed.

 

MELO THE CLOSER: Melo had 28 points on 12-28 shooting. Not spectacular on paper, but he did what we always want of him, and that’s close the show in the fourth. He went MIA in games three and four, but this time he was an active on both sides of the ball. He took Paul George in the post, drew fouls (a 5th on Hibbert) and hit clutch fadeaways. In addition, he got a jump ball, adding to three consecutive Indy turnovers in crunch time. Over the final 2-3 minutes, the Knicks were able to ice this game behind a 10-4 run.

HOW ABOUT OUR DEFENSE?:  We’ve been hearing all series about Indy’s great D. Last night, the Knicks held them to 36% shooting and 19 turnovers. And remember Woody, all these from minimal double teams and switching!

BRING THAT POISE TO INDIANA: In the huddle, Pacers coach Frank Vogel was heard saying once the game got to around 2-4 points, we would start feeling the pressure. Well, the Pacers were never able to secure the lead, showing that when focused and relying on each other, the Knicks are a match for any team in  this league.

 

A bigger test happens on Saturday when we return to Indiana. We haven’t won there all year, but our chances are very good if George Hill sits again with his concussion. If he plays, the challenge is much more daunting. Either way, the Knicks will have to play again with the passion of knowing their playoff lives are on the line.

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.

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.