In the most un-watchable playoff series in a very long time, seeing Roy Hibbert and in general the Indiana Pacers look so dominant physically is probably the only thing that keeps a lot of people going, but there’s no doubt that through all the ugliness it’s impressive to see a team so confident and so superior in almost every physical battle, getting a lot from Paul George and George Hill when it doesn’t come to offense.
The Pacers aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard. In their first home game of the conference semifinals, they took the lead back with an 82-71 win over the New York Knicks, who are playing something, but it’s not really basketball. Mike Woodson made them into a tough unit during the season, which should have helped them persevere when the shots don’t drop, but when you look this awful barring one impressive run during game 2 for an entire series and probably the entire postseason, there isn’t much of a chance to do something.
Among all the matchups that are painful to watch, Roy Hibbert simply destroying Chandler in the paint has to be on top of them. The veteran center is being tortured by a younger, stronger man. Hibbert scored 24 points and added 12 rebounds, while Chandler scored only 9 points, adding 5 boards. The Pacers grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, and in the statistical battle of the two X-factors for both teams, the Pacers are winning big time.
It was once again about the defense, as the Pacers did a few things extremely well, starting with what Paul George is putting Carmelo Anthony through. George is doing terribly on offense, shooting 4-17 from the field en route to 14 points, but the Pacers did well all season with him shooting badly. The Knicks can’t afford to have Carmelo Anthony playing so badly. The NBA’s top scorer finished with 21 points on 6-16 from the field, including 4-11 when guarded by George. He is shooting 34.1% from the field against those long arms, and if the Knicks don’t find a way around that issue, nothing is going to save them.
Another thing the Pacers’ defense did extremely well was stop the pick n roll play the Knicks had so much success with during the regular season. The Knicks’ pick-n-roll ball handler scored only 12 points on 5-19 from the field, after averaging 23 points on 40% from the field on such plays in the first couple of games in the series.
Last of all was Hibbert, who got 10 more touches in game 3 than he averaged in the first two games of the series, making as many made field goals and 4 more points in Game 3 as he did in the first two games combined.
So the two teams combined for 31 turnovers and 46 fouls. The Pacers could allow themselves such careless play thanks to their offensive rebounds (18-10) and the general win under the basket, winning 53-40. There’s nothing pretty about their wins, but Frank Vogel isn’t about pretty basketball. He’s about making the most of the athleticism, size and power his players have. Against a Knicks team that is playing without any sort of idea on how to crack the case except hoping to start getting streaky from beyond the arc (3-11 on the day), it seems to be working just fine.