Coming off of their roller coaster series against the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks who after a 13 year hiatus finally won a playoff series since 2000. Their opponent in the conference semifinals the rough, and rugged Indiana Pacers who without leader Danny Granger have found a new top dog in second year talent Paul George. Indiana came into the MSG primed, and ready for a dog fight giving the Knicks just that, and then some. Struggling to get into rhythm for the most part, and perhaps seeing the most lethal defense this post season the Knicks fell to the Pacers 102-95.
It wasn't a perfect outing to begin with, but the Knicks looked primed to have a great game in the first quarter. Specifically Raymond Felton (18 pts, 8-12 shooting) who started off strong helping his team out score the Pacers 27-22. However after that things went down hill for the NBA's most lethal scoring team this season. The Pacers defense shut down Felton's penetration play, and stifled the Knicks offense for two straight quarters only allowing 19 points in each.
What ever game plan Indiana head coach Frank Vogel had his team implement on the court worked big time, as the Knick's most dangerous offensive weapons in Carmelo Anthony (27 pts, 11 rebs, 10-28 shooting) & JR Smith (17 pts, 4-15 shooting) struggled throughout. Vogel voiced how pleased he was with that: "Just a strong defensive effort and then offensively guys played with great poise," Vogel said. At one point the two Knick scorers combined for 7-27 shooting, and when it was time to re-group it was too late.
In the paint the Pacers capitalized on their gritty defense not allowing much, but it was on the perimeter that Indiana made it's mark. Despite his balanced offensive performance Paul George (19 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast) held Carmelo Anthony to 5-18 shooting, and JR Smith to 0-7 shooting whenever he guarded them. Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (11 pts, 13 rebs, 3 steals) terrorized the Knicks on the perimeter as well.
David West's (20 pts, 4 rebs, 2 blocks) presence in the paint, along with big man Roy Hibbert (14 pts, 8 rebs, 5 blocks) didn't bode well for NYK either. The NBA's best defense just seemed to be too much for the league's most lethal scoring unit. Indiana held New York to 43.2 FG%, and 36.8% from beyond the arc. We also saw a big time offensive outing for Indiana from guard D.J. Augustin (16 pts, 4-5 from 3-pt).
Despite their fourth quarter push the Knicks were out of it since the second quarter. And even though we could see all their visible problems on the court, it seemed as if their minds weren't in it to begin with. Was the fatigue factor from the Boston series creeping in? Is Melo's ailing shoulder getting the best of him? And did a night of clubbing on the eve of his afternoon playoff game affect JR Smith's play? All interesting questions going into this series, but I know head coach Mike Woodson is sure of one thing...and that is Game 2 is a must win.
Both of these teams are the consensus picks for being the best threats to the defending champion Miami Heat this post season. Sure you may see that as just a label, but that means a lot as both teams are as talented as they come besides Miami in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks know how high the stakes are for Game 2, and if they want a fighting chance heading into Indiana on games 3-4, they better take care of business Tuesday night at home. With that said history does not side with the Knicks, as they are 0-5 in playoff series in which they have lost game 1 at home.
The Knicks will look to even this series up as they host the Indiana Pacers, Tuesday May 7th, at 7:00pm. Broadcasted on the TNT network.