It’s 3-1 and the Pacers just embarrassed the Knicks in Indiana. This is a 1990s’ fan dream.
What’s most remarkable about this team — other than its best-in-the-world defense — is that it really doesn’t need to rely on anyone to score. David West has been an shot-making no show the past two games, but it has not mattered. Instead of him getting his normal number of points, George Hill just ups his scoring load and D.J. Augustin has another nice night off the bench.
It stands out even more next to the Knicks, which need Carmelo and J.R. Smith to put up points so badly. When you fill a roster with so many old people and non-scorers, that’s just what happens.
The Pacers, on the other hand, haven’t sacrificed an ability to score to create this defense. Neither Hill nor Roy Hibbert is someone who is going to score a ton of points every night, but Games 3 and 4 have showed that they are more than capable of going on an outburst.
As for the actual break down of Indiana’s Game 4, it was all kicked off by another great start. They were getting buckets right out of the gate and New York was not. It was 11-3 less than five minutes in, and the Knicks were in disarray, missing the same midrange looks they have been settling for all series. The Pacers, when they got a shot up, were successful. But they turned the ball over too much — way too much — to turn this into a laugher early.
Instead, they did something more impressive: Maintain a 10-ish-point lead for the entire game.
They never had any prolonged stretch of total drought, scoring baskets at a fairly regular clip throughout. And they kept New York frustrated and out of sorts. Carmelo Anthony hit a shot every so often that made you think that the Knicks would be roaring back, but it never happened. The slow-and-steady tortoise just maintained the lead.
Hill was huge in the third. This can’t be overstated.
The offense didn’t look great otherwise and the Knicks were getting points more easily. They still shot the same 35% that, I guess, is just the rate that they make shots against this Pacers’ defense now, but they got to the line and took 10 of their 20 shots within five feet of the rim. Meanwhile, Indiana shot no better, hitting just 7-of-19 shots (36.8%). In all, Hill made 5 of his team’s 7 third-quarter field goals while scoring 14 of its 19 points.
Without him — the hometown kid who was committed to getting to the bucket while looking as determined to score as I’ve ever seen him — the Pacers may have surrendered a good portion of that lead. That was a 19-point quarter that at other times in this year, when no individual has stepped up, may have been a 12-point quarter. And, then, if the Knicks had entered the fourth quarter down just 4 instead of down 11, who knows what happens? Maybe Carmelo takes over and these teams are headed back to New York knotted up?
But that didn’t happen.
George Hill didn’t let it.
And in doing so, he became the third “podium game” guy (the person who talks in the post-game press conference) for the Pacers in three wins over New York. (David West had the honors after Game 1 while Roy Hibbert handled the duty after Game 3.)
Entering the final period, the Knicks were shooting 33.3% from the floor. They were 21-of-63, including 3-of-18 (16.7%) from three.
Then the Pacers just grinded out the rest of the win.
Neither team could score efficiently down the stretch, but Indiana did just enough. Chris Copeland, finally getting some minutes, and J.R. Smith put some threes on the board, but Lance Stephenson buried a monster triple himself and broke Carmelo off the dribble for a vicious drive-and-finish.
He did his part on the boards, as well — something the Pacers wings might now be the best in the league at.
In the first 11 minutes of the quarter, the Knicks missed 12 shots. Lance Stephenson (3) and Paul George (4) grabbed 7 of those rebounds. It is stuff like this, in addition to his role in forcing Anthony to shot 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter before fouling out, that makes it really hard to care that George shot 1-for-6 in the fourth with 2 turnovers.
That type of offense is gaudy, but the defense and the boards are his foundation. And they never disappear.
He’s a microcosm of this whole team in that way. Maybe West disappears for a game, but that just means more Hill. When they play well and when they have won in the playoffs, there is never a void when something expected disappears; someone else just fills it that hole.
Tonight, it was D.J. Augustin early, George Hill in the third and a bit of Lance Stephenson late.
A little unexpected offense paired with the suffocating D was more than enough to leave the Knicks on death’s doorstep as they fly home and wonder how in the world they can win three straight games.
|David West, PF 35 MIN | 3-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +5 |
His shot has been broken the past two games, which is a big problem. Still, he made some nice passes, finding Paul George with a long touchdown and Lance Stephenson under the hoop for a layup (which he missed).
|Paul George, SF 45 MIN | 6-19 FG | 5-8 FT | 14 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | +16 |
He is missing open three-pointers. He was actually 5/10 from inside the arc, with two of those makes coming on slick, determined drives that showed how Swiss cheese New York’s interior defense is. Way more importantly … the defense. Oh the defense on Carmelo. He’s a savant.
|Roy Hibbert, C 37 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +11 |
He’s just a terror at the rim. Had 3 blocks and countless other alterations, not to mention a few bad foul calls that were swats. He got Carmelo badly one time — flat-footed — and was whistled for a personal.
|George Hill, PG 37 MIN | 9-14 FG | 6-9 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 26 PTS | +5 |
Hill took over after half time, scoring 13 points in the third and doing his damage in various ways. The team didn’t play all that great in the period, so it was huge that George kept the lead by himself. He was elected the mayor of Indianapolis after the game.
|Lance Stephenson, SG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +6 |
It’s funny that I can look down and say “Lance got 7 boards” without even flinching anymore. There were a lot of Knicks misses, so grain of salt, but he also knocked down his open threes and had one monster drive late by Carmelo that felt like the final nail in New York’s coffin. Then he sprinted down court during the ensuring timeout to jaw and flex at some Knicks fans who had been said something to him earlier.
|D.J. Augustin, PG 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 6-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +9 |
The moment he entered the game, D.J. broke down Jason Kidd and got to the hoop for a layup. Minutes later, he knocked down a big three that put Indiana up 11. All season, the late first/early second quarter has been when Indiana gave up ground. His timely scoring in this series has helped that time be less of a problem.
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 14 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +8 |
No production to speak of, but didn’t seem to be playing poorly. Made a nice move on All Defensive First Team Member Tyson Chandler for a layup.
|Sam Young, SF 6 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | 0 |
Hit a three and finished on a fast break. When Sam Young is scoring, you know it’s not your day.
|Ian Mahinmi, C 10 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1 |
He played well. Really, really well.
|Jeff Pendergraph, PF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3 |
|Orlando Johnson, SG 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3 |