Size can only be taken advantage of when you play on it. The Indiana Pacers stopped trying to make the most of their physical advantages over the New York Knicks in the final quarter of game 2 in their semifinal series, and were punished by Carmelo Anthony at his absolute best and most explosive, while the rest of his teammates followed the lead in one of the most devastating fourth quarter runs in recent memory.
How bad was it for the Pacers? They left New York after losing by 26 points, suffering an embarrassing collapse from 3:38 left in the third quarter till 3:09 left in the fourth. The Knicks outscored them 36-4 during that 12 minute stretch, with the Knicks scoring 20 fourth quarter points before the Pacers remembered to get on the scoreboard during the final period. After such a promising start to the series, Indiana went away from everything that worked for them.
The Pacers dominated in the paint during game 1, but couldn’t do anything when the Knicks began their impossible-to-stop run. They attempted only one shot from inside 5 feet during the fourth quarter, after making 17 of 22 attempts in the first three. Yes, Pablo Prigioni hitting unlikely shots really put the crowd in the game and kinda took the Pacers out of it, but the issue was George Hill and Frank Vogel not controlling the tempo or the offense, which pulled in the opposite direction of which it should have.
Carmelo Anthony had no trouble with Paul George, David West or anyone else who usually makes it hard for him to assert his scoring dominance. He hit shots from close, mid and long range. He finished with 32 points, forcing things a little less than usual, finishing with 50% from the field, hardly needing to go to the line (4-4) unlike other “impressive” scoring efforts late in the season. After a rough series against Boston, the Knicks finally had an offensive explosion, and their first 100 point game in the playoffs since June 9, 1999, when they beat the Pacers 101-94.
The fourth quarter we just defensively, we picked up. We kept getting stop after stop and then we would rebound the ball and get it up and our offense began to flow like old times. It was kind of nice to see.
Mike Woodson didn’t use a big lineup as some expected him to, but Kenyon Martin did have 18 minutes on the floor, finishing with 10 points and being a major part on both ends of the floor of that impressive run at the end, including that off-the-backboard dunk after helping Raymond Felton trap George Hill. The Knicks got nothing from J.R. Smith (3-15 from the field), but it didn’t matter. Anthony didn’t destroy their offense, while the others around him sacrificed enough on defense to keep the Pacers from using their specific advantages.
Does this turn the series around? Big wins don’t always win what the margin showcases on the surface. The Pacers have been better than the Knicks in more quarters so far in the playoffs, and one collapse doesn’t mean they’ve suddenly become underdogs. Their advantages are still there, they just need to remain persistent, aggressive and focused on staying on the right path, instead of letting a one-dimensional Knicks team walk all over them.