The Indiana Pacers proved to be difficult for the New York Knicks during the regular season, and the opening game of their semifinals series proved to be no different. Paul George guards Carmelo Anthony better than anyone has this season, not only making him miss a lot, but doesn’t send him to the free throw line while doing it. It took a lot out of him on offense, but there was David West and others to pick up the slack.
The Pacers won game 1, in New York, 102-95, making it their second consecutive road win in the playoffs after losing the first two in quite a convincing manner. Frank Vogel and his mostly young team is getting over all of its inexperience and youthfulness problems quite quickly, mostly through the interior defense of Roy Hibbert and the amazing job on the perimeter done by Paul George.
As we mentioned yesterday, George did a great job all throughout this season in keeping Anthony shooting badly (which he does a lot by himself thanks to his blind eye to teammates) and not fouling him. Anthony finished with 10-28 from the field, on par with his terrible field goal shooting in the postseason, but reached the line only six times, compared to 8.2 in the series vs the Celtics. He finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, but wasn’t necessarily beneficial to his team during his 36 minutes on the floor.
Another important defensive factor is Roy Hibbert, who won the battle with Tyson Chandler. Hibbert was huge during his 39 minutes on the floor, scoring 14 points, adding 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks. More importantly was what happened in the paint while he was defending – the Knicks shot only 42.9% from inside 5 feet while Hibbert was on the court; the Pacers have now outscored opponents by 50 points in the paint when their starting center is playing, and have been outscored by 22 when he’s on the bench.
Frank Vogel – Just a strong defensive effort and then offensively guys played with great poise. I thought guys did a good job just putting them on their heels. We were attacking, we were aggressive.
The Knicks had Anthony scoring 27 points, followed by Raymond Felton with 18. The Pacers put a lot of emphasis on making life impossible inside and personally on Anthony and J.R. Smith (4-15 from the field), which allowed Felton to have his way with George Hill, concentrated on helping others. It didn’t matter. There was enough Pacers offense – David West with 20 points, Paul George with 19, George Hill with 14, D.J. Augustin with 16 and Lance Stephenson with 16 points.
The important one was George, who struggled on offense, but got to the line (7-8) and drew five fouls out of Anthony. George himself rotated between Anthony and Smith, keeping the two of them on a combined 5-24 from the field, which pretty much destroyed any chance the favored (by some) Knicks had to win the game. Without a way to start generating some real offense instead of isolation play after isolation play, this is going to be a Pacers series from start to finish.