Tyson Chandler slowed to let a potential defensive rebound bounce in front of him. Seeing an opportunity, Tyler Hansbrough surged from behind and knocked the ball off Stoudemire as Hansbrough fell out of bounds. The ball bounced off Chandler and over the baseline, and though it next hit the knee of Hansbrough, who was then out of bounds, the officials gave the Pacers the ball.
Before New York could protest, the Pacers had another offensive rebound, Roy Hibbert made a left-handed hook shot, and Indiana took a 2-1 series lead with its 82-71 win tonight.
Whether the Knicks know it or not, this series is getting away from them.
Teams shooting 35 percent or worse from the field had been 2-81 since the beginning of this season, but the Pacers became the third team to win in those circumstances for one big reason (REBOUNDING) and two smaller reasons (3-pointers and the Knicks’ offense being nearly as abysmal).
Indiana outrebounded New York, 53-40, allowing the Pacers to turn the ball over more than the Knicks and still attempt nine more shots. Hibbert (24 points and 12 rebounds) came up big, but it was really a total team effort. Rank the starters by rebounds, and the Pacers have the top two spots and five of the top six, and the Knicks have the bottom four.
1. Pacers (Roy Hibbert, 12)
1. Pacers (David West, 12)
3. Knicks (Iman Shumpert, 9)
4. Pacers (Paul George, 8)
5. Pacers (Lance Stephenson, 7)
6. Pacers (George Hill, 6)
7. Knicks (Tyson Chandler, 5)
7. Knicks (Carmelo Anthony, 5)
9. Knicks (Raymond Felton, 3)
10. Knicks (Pablo Prigioni, 0)
New York’s starters played more than Indiana’s but that underscores the point: The Pacers – big, physical and aggressive on the glass – have a stronger identity than the Knicks right now. New York is still tinkering, which is a dangerous state this deep into the playoffs.
The Knicks were an OK rebounding team during the regular season – ranking 19th in offensive rebounding, 4th in defensive rebounding and 18th overall – but Indiana (fourth offensively, sixth defensively and first overall) has exposed New York’s relative size deficiencies.
The Knicks’ latest adjustment, giving Amar’e Stoudemire nine minutes, didn’t go so hot. With him on the floor, Indiana had more offensive rebounds than New York had defensive rebounds.
Another key for for the Pacers was 3-point shooting. Although they shot just 30.3 percent from beyond the arc, a mark that would have ranked last in the league during the regular season, they made seven more 3s than New York. That’s because the Knicks crowded the paint, allowing Indiana to take 22 more 3-point attempts than New York. Even at a below-average clip, 3-pointers are very valuable due to being worth 50 percent more points than other shots, and the Knicks erred by strategically allowing so many 3s.
Staying on the Pacers’ 3-point shooters will be a relatively easy adjustment for New York going to Game 4, but how do they fix the rebounding? And there’s the Knicks’ offense.
New York looked looked especially horrid offensively at times tonight, but in their lowest moments, the Knicks found the most unlikely saviors.
Their only points on their first seven possessions came on a 20-foot Chandler jumper, his longest made field goal as a Knick.
In the final 6:47 of the third quarter, J.R. Smith was the only Knick to make a shot – and it’s not like he was lighting it up, shooting 2-for-5 in that span – until Stoudemire made a tip-in with six seconds left (a basket that didn’t count until a replay review between the third and fourth quarters overruled a shot clock violation called prior to the basket) and then made his first 3-pointer since Jan. 21, 2012.
Otherwise, Carmelo Anthony (21 points on 6-of-16 shooting) kept them afloat . No other Knick scored double digits.
But the patchwork offense eventually ripped at the seems. The Knicks made only one shot in the first 9:58 of the fourth quarter, and by then, the Pacers’ lead had swelled to 16.
On the other hand, Paul George made his mark while producing shooting just 4-of-17 and committing five turnovers. He had eight rebounds, eight assists (a difficult feat in a game when his teammates shot just 38 percent) and five steals while playing quality defense on Melo.
This isn’t the tidy series the Knicks need, and that’s why the Pacers’ leg up seems even bigger than their 2-1 series lead.