Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Two

Pacers collapse in fourth quarter, Knicks win in rout to even series


It all started with 3:05 left in the third quarter. The Pacers had been on a 10-4 run and had taken a two-point lead — Indiana had the momentum. Game 2 of this second round series was starting to look a lot like Game 1, when the Pacers beat the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

Then with 3:05 left Pacers coach Frank Vogel called timeout. You don’t often see the team on the run call the timeout. Vogel also wanted to get his key big man Roy Hibbert some rest and subbed in Jeff Pendergraph. Soon Carmelo Anthony stole the ball from Paul George, then on the offensive end Anthony isolated on David West and took him to the hole for a lay-up. There was no Hibbert there to slow him.

After a Knicks stop, Carmelo isolated on West again, drove the lane, Pendergraph rotated late and Anthony dunked all over him and got the and-1.

That was the start of a ridiculous 30-2 Knicks run — Indiana didn’t score from the field for more than 12 minutes — that turned a close game into a blowout and a 105-79 Knicks win. Anthony finished with 32 points and 9 rebounds.

This series is now tied 1-1 and headed to Indiana. Eventually. These two teams are off until Saturday night.

From the start of the game the Knicks played with some desperation and with a better plan of attack — more pick-and-roll, they are driving into the paint and looking for kick-outs. Raymond Felton started 4-of-4, the Knicks closed the quarter on 18-9 run and lead 29-20 after 12 minutes.

The Pacers were still getting their looks — they shot 54.5 percent in the first half — but only had 42 points because of 12 turnovers. They finished the game with 21 turnovers, or 23.9 percent of their possessions ended in a turnover for the game. Nearly one in four trips down the court.

Still, after the Knicks missed last six shots, Pacers closed the half on an 8-0 to make it 47-42 Knicks at the break.

Anthony continued his struggles in the first half — he had 10 points but needed 11 shots to get there. Anthony and J.R. Smith combined to shoot 33% in first half, rest of Knicks team knocking down 60.9%.

But the second half — and particularly the fourth quarter — was like a different game.

Anthony shot 9-of-15 in the second half for 22 points. Tyson Chandler shot 3-of-3, as did Pablo Prigioni. Kenyon Martin shot 2-of-2, Iman Shumpert was 2-of-3. Everything worked for the Knicks (except J.R. Smith, who was 0-5).

It was more than the offense, the Knicks upped their defensive pressure and played like the desperate team after Vogel’s timeout. The Pacers went 12 minutes without a bucket from the field, they shot just 4-of-16 in the fourth, and their offense completely broke down. Earlier in the game they were getting their looks working inside out, but as they fell behind the Pacers just started to jack up threes.

I expect the Pacers, back at home and feeling comfortable Saturday, will return more to their form.

The question is which Knicks team shows up, the one from the first half or the one from the fourth quarter. If it’s the latter, it will not matter where the game is played.

51 Questions: Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

It has been five years since the Phoenix Suns made the playoffs, tying the franchise record for longest playoff drought. It’s the fourth longest active drought in the NBA (Timberwolves at 11, Kings at nine, and Pistons at six).

Think about it this way: The Magic, Sixers, and Jazz have been to the playoffs more recently than the Suns.

Phoenix hasn’t bottomed out on a rebuild, they’ve actually been pretty good — they surprised everyone and won 48 games two seasons ago, then had 39 wins last season when things went very wrong and injuries crushed the team after the All-Star break. However, in a deep Western Conference pretty good isn’t good enough.

Suns management and ownership wants that to change. They want back in the playoff dance. Now.

It’s why they went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, coming in a surprising second to a Spurs team that nobody was likely to catch in that chase.

This summer the Suns made other moves to address needs. They went out and got Tyson Chandler as a free agent. The first reaction was he was there to provide a shot blocking and defensive quarterbacking, two things the Suns sorely lacked. However, just as importantly, they needed a vocal locker room leader, a vacuum that was part of the problem in Phoenix’s implosion last season.

The Suns also needed shooting, they went out and got Mirza Teletovic and drafted Devin Booker.

It’s easy to think the Suns regressed because they lost a lot of talent since the last trade deadline — Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright — but they believe the pieces they have now fit together better.

Phoenix believes it can make the playoffs; it thinks it finally has the right formula.

Maybe. They will be in the mix. But a four things have to happen to make that a reality.

First is Chandler has to lead a defensive renaissance on this team. Last season they were average, 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Chandler can help change that. First, he gives them defensive rebounding that they lacked. He gives them a quarterback that they needed to call things out and have everyone on the same page (reports of how he talks on defense are already pouring out of camp). And he helps protects the paint — that means Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and P.J. Tucker can pressure the ball more and take risks out on the perimeter knowing Chandler can erase some mistakes.

The second is an obvious one: Bledsoe and Knight need to be able to work well together. They are going to share playmaking duties, and both are going to spend time working off the ball, both need to be ready for that mental adjustment. We haven’t seen that much yet, we need to see how it works out.

Third, there needs to be shooting to space the floor. Bledsoe is a penetrator who is a career 32 percent from three, while Knight shot just 31.3 percent from three after being traded to the Suns (likely due to ankle injuries that required off-season surgery). Those two men will be running the pick-and-roll with Chandler, who sets a good pick, rolls hard and can finish, but doesn’t have shooting range. The Suns other two starters are likely P.J. Tucker, who is not a huge threat from three but shot a respectable 34.5 percent from there last season, and Markieff Morris, who is a career 32.8 percent from three.

If I’m an opposing defense, what’s to keep me from going under picks and packing the lane against the Suns? Phoenix needs Knight to return to the guy who is a career 36 percent from three, they need Morris to improve from the outside, and they need guys like Teletovic and Booker to play key minutes and space the floor at times.

Fourth, and finally, they need the potentially volatile mixture of an unhappy Morris and a coach in Jeff Hornacek in the last year of his contract not to combust. Everyone is saying all the right things at the start of camp, and this is why guys like Chandler and Ronnie Price were brought in, but there is the potential for things to go sideways, especially if some early losses pile up.

The biggest hurdle for the Suns in ending their playoff drought is they are in the Western Conference.

Even if all four of things mentioned above go right for them — if they run and hit more threes plus play better defense — this is likely a 45 win team (give or take a few, and probably take). The problem is that in the West that may not be enough. Barring injuries, there are likely seven lock playoff teams in the West — Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans. That leaves the Suns battling teams such as the Jazz, Mavericks and maybe the Kings for that final playoff spot. It may take more than 45 wins, and things are going to have to break the Suns’ way to get there.

Maybe Robert Sarver gets his way and the playoff drought ends this season, it’s more likely than snow in Phoenix this winter. But I wouldn’t bet much on either happening.

LeBron says “get it done” message was for both Cavaliers, Thompson

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Everything LeBron James does and says gets magnified and scrutinized.

So when he put out this photo on Instagram standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Tristan Thompson and the caption “get it done” it seemed a message to the Cavaliers.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron clarified that on Sunday, saying this has become a distraction, and the message was for both sides to bend, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

When Thompson didn’t sign the qualifying offer he surrendered a lot of leverage, the Cavaliers don’t have to raise their five-year, $80 million offer — but reportedly they still would, a little. Thompson and his agent Rich Paul have pushed for a max contract, but that’s not happening.

At some point, the two sides will come to an agreement. For the Cavaliers, this is a distraction, their star is unhappy with that, and ultimately if they are going to make a title run they need the energy and rebounding Thompson brings (even if it is just off the bench). For Thompson, he can’t make up a year of lost salary, he has to come in and start getting paid at some point.

The two sides will get it done. Eventually. Likely before the season tips off.