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

56 Comments

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.

Report: Nets, Sixers to try and land J.J. Redick as free agent

1 Comment

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get all the headlines as the big Clippers’ big free agents, but there is another Clipper going to get paid this summer:

J.J. Redick.

One of the best snipers in the NBA, he shot 42.9 percent from three last year. However, he’s become much more than just a shooter. No player works harder off the ball to get open than Redick, he’s got enough game to put the ball on the floor and create if he gets closed out on, and he’s a solid team defender. He has remade his body and his game since his days at Duke, and now he’s going to get paid.

Maybe by Brooklyn or Philadephia, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to expect the Sixers and Nets to make a hard push at Redick. Were he to go to either of those teams, Redick could receive an opportunity unlike anything he’s had before. He is one of the greatest 3-point shooters in league history, and is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high six 3-point attempts per game. That’s a lot of triples, but it’s not enough. Even Sixers swingman Robert Covington averaged more last season, at 6.1 per game, and he shot only 33.3 percent. A gunslinger of Redick’s caliber should be averaging about 8.5 treys, in the same range as Klay Thompson or Eric Gordon. Had Redick taken 8.5 3s last season and posted the same 42.9 percent clip, he would’ve averaged 18.2 points per game. Redick could receive those chances with the Sixers or Nets, all while living within close proximity to his home in Brooklyn.

Redick will have options, the question is what does he want? Does he want to be close to home in Brooklyn? Does he want to both help on the court and mentor off it the up-and-coming Sixers? Would he take a little less money, and a couple fewer shots, to chase a ring? Does he want to stay a Clipper?

Redick has earned the right to have options, his skill set could help any team. He may be flying under fans’ radar, but not front office executives. They see Redick’s value. Which is why he will have options come July 1.

Report: Nuggets plan to make free agent run at Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap

2 Comments

Denver likes its young core. As it should. Nikola Jokic looks like a franchise cornerstone piece at center. Young guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are clearly part of the future. Emmanuel Mudiay and Juan Hernangomez may be as well.

What Denver needs most is an upgrade at the four — someone who can defend, rebound, and space the floor. It’s a top off-season priority (and why they came up as a third team in the Kevin Love/Paul George trade talks, but that appears dead now).

Instead, expect the Nuggets to be aggressive on the free agent market. Via Marc Stein and Chris Haynes at ESPN.

Denver, according to sources, hopes to crash the list of suitors for Los Angeles Clippers unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and Atlanta Hawks unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap.‎

Denver’s interest in Millsap is no secret and they will likely come in with a big offer, and it’s known he’s likely to leave Atlanta this summer. He’d be the perfect fit with his ability to defend other fours (he almost made the NBA All-Defensive Team), he is strong on the glass, and he shot 31.3 percent from three last season (you have to respect him out there). Griffin is more athletic and a better passer than Millsap, but he’s not the same level of defender, and he comes with more injury concerns. He also could stay with the Clippers.

Denver has positioned itself to be a player, a team going after one more big star to position itself not just in the playoffs in the West but as a team fast on the rise. Whether the Nuggets can out-recruit teams for elite players, remains to be seen. Millsap, Griffin and players of that level have options and a lot of teams chasing them.

However, Denver is one confident organization right now.

Twitter is confused: Isaiah Thomas, Damian Lillard got All-Defensive team votes

1 Comment

Isaiah Thomas is deservedly an All-NBA player and likely finished fifth in MVP balloting after a monster season. Damian Lillard is an All-Star level player who averaged 27 points a game for Portland last season.

Neither of them are good defenders. At all.

Both got one NBA All-Defensive second team vote.

There are no great defensive metrics, but the best snapshot one out there is ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, which weighs a lot of factors into how a player and team defends. Thomas finished 86th out of 86 potential point guards, and second to last in the entire NBA (to answer your question, Doug McDermott was worse). Lillard finished 65th among point guards, in the range of Brandon Jennings and J.J. Barea. One stat certainly should not be a deciding factor for voters, but Twitter was rightfully confused how either of them got an All-Defense vote.

Isaiah Thomas chimed in, but he wasn’t defending himself.

On Tuesday the NBA will release a full breakdown of which media members voted and who they voted for on all the awards. (For the record, I had a vote, and I didn’t vote for either of them here). The NBA’s voting system can be a challenge because it’s pulldown menus with a lot of players, it could just be an error, but you can bet Twitter will be ready to ask.

Sixers young core already nicknamed “FEDS,” Durant thinks they should play a game first

19 Comments

Hype is high in Philadelphia.

They have two NBA All-Rookie players on the roster already — Joel Embiid and Dario Saric — and next year they add to the roster the last two No. 1 picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. If I were a Sixers’ fan, I’d be Rocky climbing the stairs pumped — this team has real potential. So much so there’s already a nickname.

Kevin Durant and the Warriors were out taking batting practice at the A’s Stadium — that’s what you get to do when you’re NBA champs — and KD thought the Sixers may want to slow their roll and actually play a game together first.

Personally, I like the nickname. Now, will all four of them be on the Sixers in three years? Odds are at least one is gone, this is a cruel business. This was jumping the gun, but so what? Sixers fans deserve to be able to crow about something after the past couple of years.