A lot of the focus in the Indiana vs. New York series was strength on strength — could the very good Pacers defense slow the very good Knicks offense? And they did slow it, they frustrated Carmelo Anthony, but the Knicks still got their points.
However, it was the other end of the court that was key for Game 1 — the Knicks could not stop the Pacers offense. Indiana worked the ball inside-out, worked it from the strong-side to the weak with good passing, and New York couldn’t catch up and contest shots.
Indiana shot the ball better, got to the free throw line more, and grabbed more offensive rebounds on their way to a 102-95 Game 1 win in in New York. The Pacers lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 scheduled for Tuesday night in New York.
The concern for the Knicks is that the Pacers are in some key structural ways a better version of the Boston Celtics — a defense-first team that can be limited on offense. But the Pacers have better athletes (Paul George) as well as big men who can score (David West had 20 points, Roy Hibbert 14) than Boston did. The Pacers are not going to take the long offensive siestas the Celtics did in the first round. The Knicks are going to have to play better at both ends than they did much of Game 1.
New York got some good looks early running side pick-and roll action so the game was close through the first quarter. But the Knicks got away from that in the second quarter and the Pacers started to find their groove — Indiana shot 68.8 percent in the quarter, went on a 10-2 run late and won the second 30-19. Indy led by six at the half.
The Pacers got an unexpected offensive bump in the game from D.J. Augustin, who had 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting including 4-of-5 from three on the game.
The Pacers pulled away in the third and a lot of that had to do with Hibbert — he outplayed Tyson Chandler all night. The Knicks need to do something to pull him out of the paint because when he gets set up back there he blocks and alters everything around the rim. The Knicks struggled with that, or containing him on offense (Chandler eventually fouled out of the game.
The Knicks tried to exploit mismatches like David West on Carmelo Anthony at points, but Melo finished with 28 points but on 27 shots.
Melo’s advantage against West is speed, need to run him off screens/make him the screener to get West moving before Melo attacks.
In the third quarter the Pacers started to pull away, extending the lead up to 16. The Knicks made a push late in the fourth but could get it no lower than 5.
The Pacers are going to defend like this all series — Paul George did a good job limiting Anthony and J.R. Smith (who had 17 points on 4-of-15 shooting on the night). The Knicks will have better offensive games, but it’s not going to be easy against the size and length of the Pacers. New York needs more Raymond Felton side, pick-and-roll, they need plays that force Hibbert out and away from where he can protect the rim.
But the Knicks will score points. The issue is the other end, where the Pacers had an offensive rating of 110.3 (points per 100 possessions), well above their 101.6 average from the regular season.
Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony need to have a better defensive night — Indiana’s front line of Hibbert, West and George had 53 points and 14 rebounds. The Pacers won the points in the paint battle 46-32.
New York is going to have to change that to win this series, one in which they have now given up home court advantage.