With their backs to the wall, the New York Knicks didn’t get the finest out of Carmelo Anthony. Not an MVP-like performance, but whatever it was, it was good enough to keep them alive in the conference semifinal series, forcing a game 6, by finally showing up to the fourth quarter with some big shots against Paul George and some big defense on the other end against David West.
You wouldn’t expect the Knicks to be the winners against the Indiana Pacers in a game that both teams score a total of 160 points (85-75) in, but the Knicks made the most of George Hill not playing due to a concussion while Roy Hibbert played a series-low 31 minutes due to foul trouble, which gave the Knicks a little bit of a breather when it came to grabbing some rebounds.
Anthony led the scoring with 28 points on 12-for-28 from the field. He still had a hard time getting to the line (only 4 times), but unlike the previous two losses, in which Anthony didn’t score in both fourth quarters, he made a couple of big baskets while not trying to force anything during that quarter. His first basket, with six minutes left to play, gave the Knicks a six point lead, as he posted up successfully on Sam Young. The second basket, with 03:07 on the clock, Anthony finally managed to make a shot while posting up on Paul George.
The rest was defense. The Pacers have been very successful on offense in the series running the pick & roll, averaging 0.81 points per possession on such plays. They tried even more Pick & Rolls in game 5, but were a lot less successful in those plays. The Pick-and-roll ball handlers shot only 27.3% from the field in game 5, while turning the ball over four times. With George Hill calling those shots, the Pacers were 50% on those plays through the first four games in the series.
It was also the decision making in the clutch. Paul George is a good shooter, but when he has the ball too much in his hands, it doesn’t end up too well for the Pacers. He’s not the kind to be a point-forward just yet, as the Pacers turned the ball over on three of their last four possessions, adding two missed free throws to make it a terrible finale in another one of those road games in which nothing worked for them.
I was totally impressed because we met the challenge. I think as a coach you come into games like this and you want to see who’s going to step up and make plays, and I thought we did that tonight. We were the better team in terms of doing that. We’re not going away without a fight.
The Knicks enjoyed Roy Hibbert’s 17 minutes off the court, getting a +10 in those while being even with the confused Pacers (17 turnovers) while he was on the court. Hibbert finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds, but the Knicks weren’t crushed under the basket, and had David West playing a bigger role in the paint than he would like to, giving the Pacers a smaller look that hasn’t worked well for them in this postseason.
Heading into game 6, the Knicks know it’s a lot more about what the Pacers do or don’t do than it is about them. If George Hill is back, the same defensive problems will show up once again. If Roy Hibbert avoids fouls early on, Tyson Chandler is in trouble. Chris Copeland isn’t going to score 13 points against big lineups, and there doesn’t seem to be a single player on the Knicks except for Carmelo Anthony that seems even a little bit confident in his ability to get points on the board.