By: Dennis Guillermo
After a quick turnaround from their closeout games last Friday, the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers renewed one of the most epic playoff rivalries in NBA history on Sunday at the Madison Square Garden in New York for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup.
Both teams were sharp in their offensive executions to start the game, with Raymond Felton dictating the flow for the Knicks on the pick-and-roll, and Roy Hibbert and David West going to work early in the post for the Pacers.
The Pacers’ defense picked up where it left off from the Atlanta series and contested most of the Knicks’ drives in the paint and forced them to settle for jump shots.
DJ Augustin’s three-pointer with a little less than two minutes to go in the first quarter allowed the Pacers to wrestle the lead for the first time, but a series of turnovers and bad plays from Sam Young who just came into the game amounted to 10 quick points for the Knicks to finish the quarter up 27-22.
The Knicks consistently found the open man on the perimeter at the beginning of the second quarter to go up by seven, but Augustin kept the Pacers close with his 10 points off the bench. The Pacers’ starting unit took over toward the end of the quarter and established their half court defense anew, as the shots stopped falling for the Knicks. JR Smith went 1-6 from the field, and Anthony went cold from the perimeter and the Pacers took over and closed the half with a 52-46 lead after Paul George’s 3-pointer.
The Pacers executed and shot the ball well to start the second half to push their lead to double-digits. The Pacers’ defense continued to force the Knicks to tough shots. Things would get tougher for the Knicks, however, when Anthony picked up his fourth foul in trying to contest George’s jumper with 7:48 still left in the 3rd quarter.
With Anthony out, Smith tried to take on the load on offense for the Knicks, but continued his atrocious shooting. Lance Stepheson had himself a quarter for the Pacers and scored six points while facilitating on offense as the Pacers threatened to blow the game out of hand going up 81-65 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Anthony started the 4th quarter with 6 quick points to cut the deficit to a single digit, but picked up his 5th foul after warding off Hibbert in the ensuing Knicks possession. The Pacers continued to pound the ball in the paint, but the Knicks’ jumpers started to fall to keep themselves within striking distance.
The Knicks went to the penalty early - thanks in large to the Pacers’ early fouls on Anthony - and looked to capitalize by taking the ball to the basket more often. With the Knicks mounting a rally to come back, Hibbert stepped up big on defense for the Pacers contesting the Knicks’ drives, blocking and altering what would’ve been easy two points on many occasions.
The Knicks got as close to six points with 50 seconds left after Smith's two free throws off George's sixth foul, but Smith missed his three point attempt on their next offensive possession allowing the Pacers to walk away with the win.
The Pacers played with poise and dominated the rebounding department 44-30 throughout the game. West's 20 points led six players in double digits for the Pacers, with George adding 19, and Hibbert with 14 to go with 5 blocks and 8 rebounds. Augustin came up big off the bench with 16 points.
Anthony led the Knicks with 27 points and 11 rebounds, while Felton added 18, most of which came in the first half.
Game 2 is in New York on Tuesday.
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