Last night, the Indiana Pacers put forth one of their better defensive outings in a wire-to-wire 93-82 victory over the New York Knicks that secured a 3 games to 1 lead in the series.
From start to finish the Pacer defenders had a hand in the face of the Knick players, forcing them to take difficult shots that were not in the flow of the offense. Indiana’s stingy defense caused the Knicks to shoot a paltry 35.6% from the field and 28.6% from three. A large portion of the credit should go to versatile swing-man Paul George who defended the visibly frustrated Carmelo Anthony. Anthony failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter and committed 3 fouls, ending any chance at digging his team out of the deficit.
Adhering to their defensive strategy of limiting the free throw attempts of the opponent, the Pacers, for the most part, kept the Knicks off the charity stripe only allowing 14 attempts (the Knicks averaged 21.9 attempts during the regular season).
As if shutting down the Knicks’ offense wasn’t enough, the Pacers also pounded New York on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 54 to 36. This is an another area in which Paul George made a crucial impact, as he snagged a game-high 14 rebounds. Just as in game 1, Indiana got a lift from backup point guard D.J. Augustin, who scored 11 points and made all six of his free throw attempts.
Stifling defense and strong rebounding has been synonymous with Pacers basketball all season long,and so far in this series, things have not been different. In their wins against the Knicks, the Pacers have averaged 50 rebounds, 4.7 steals, and 5.7 blocks while limiting the Knicks to 38.1 FG%, 31.0 3FG%, and 35.7 rebounds per game. The one exception was in Game 2 when the Knicks out-rebounded Indiana 39-37, and shot the 49,4% from the field, resulting in a victory.
In order to get back into the series, the Knicks will have to replicate their game 2 performance. They’ll have to find a way to move the ball and knock down shots the way they did in the regular season.
On the opposite side, if the Pacers want to dispose of the Knicks they too have to make some adjustments. The team has to cut down on the turnovers (averaging 17.5) in addition to shoring up their offensive efficiency (only shooting 42% from the field and 32% from three in the series).
Tomorrow night at 8:00 pm (est.) on TNT, we will find out if the Pacers will move onto the Eastern Conference Finals or whether the Knicks will live to fight another day.