Old school beat new tonight. The New York Knicks crushed it on three-pointers, but the Indiana Pacers dominated on twos, and that, plus a magical night by Domantas Sabonis and a late flurry from Victor Oladipo, led the visitors to the 107-101 win.
The game was close throughout. Early on the Knicks were turning the ball over and the Pacers took advantage. Indy went big early with Sabonis joining Myles Turner. David Fizdale countered by replacing Mitchell Robinson with Mario Hezonja. You’re going to hear a lot about Sabonis feasting on Enes Kanter, and he did. But it was the early feasting on an overmatched, decidedly un-super Mario that got Sabonis in a rhythm which lasted all night.
As has been true all year, the Knicks were carried by Tim Hardaway Jr., whose lip is still busted but whose game is anything but. His 17 first-half points had New York up two and set the stage for an exciting back-and-forth between two sons of Hall-of-Famers. The second half saw each team briefly gaining the upper hand before surrendering it. With five minutes left, the Knicks were up one. All the starters were in — Hardaway, Noah Vonleh, Damyean Dotson, Frank Ntilikina — except Mitchell Robinson, who was replaced with Lance Thomas. Make sure you write that in your notes. It will come up later in the quiz.
Dotson and Hardaway both hit tough shots, big shots late, and it really did feel like the Knicks were gonna win this one...until Oladipo stripped Hardaway clean with 2:30 left and took it in for a breakaway dunk to put Indiana up one, which begat Thomas shooting from three, which begat Thomas missing from three, which begat Thaddeus Young hitting a bucket, which begat Hardaway playing hero ball and missing from deep, which begat Oladipo playing hero ball and not missing, drilling it in THJ’s face. Game over. Not quite.
Hardaway drove strong and drew a foul, then hit a pair of free throws. Allonzo Trier drove strong and hit a tough lay-in. The Knicks were down just two with 30 seconds left. Everyone knew Oladipo would get the ball. Most didn’t suspect Fizdale would have Dotson guarding the Pacers’ All-Star on the game’s biggest possesion. <3 <3 <3
Bojan Bogdanovic sidled up to set a screen but slipped it, ending up with a wide-open three. Trier and Dotson both rushed to contest, so when the shot was way off and Young leapt to save it from going out of bounds, the wise Oladipo was already racing to the corner to hit the damning three as the shot clock expired. Fair to call his night...superhero-like?
- Sabonis scored 30 points on 12-for-12 from the field despite fouling out in just 21 minutes. Minute-per-minute, a truly historic performance on a stage that’s seen its share.
- 37 for Hardaway. Early in the action he draw a charge on a Pacer break. He’s on pace to draw 40+ this year, obliterating last year’s mark of 12. “All-Around Tim Hardaway Jr.” is a thing I’m very here for.
- Let’s check the early-season temperature on a possible hot-take: would you rather trade Hardaway at the deadline to clear enough cap room to pursue two max free agents, or keep him, even if that means having less of a chance at two, and therefore, potentially, less of a chance at one?
- At its best, basketball is like group sex where everybody orgasms simultaneously and enjoys a stellar breakfast together the morning after. Of late, Kanter is like a lover who only ever wants you to watch them masturbate with their off-hand, then tosses a grapefruit rind at your hungry ass the next day when you mention you’re hungry.
- On one sequence in the first quarter, Robinson switched from Turner to Darren Collison. Robinson, light as Legolas on his feet, floated effortlessly between doubling down on Turner and flittering back to guard the guard. What a sight.
- Every night Vonleh does something new to excite you about his versatility. He hit from downtown. He put the ball on the floor from the three-point line and drove to the rim to convert over Turner. Early in the first Dotson dumped a pass into him in the paint, right at the charge/block semicircle. Vonleh caught it with his back to Turner and Young, who had him completely covered from behind. Collison and Oladipo were both on his left, eliminating Ntilikina as an option in the corner.
Vonleh didn’t put his head down and bull toward the rim. He didn’t look around trying to decipher the situation while the defense seized the initiative. The instant the ball hit his hands, he kicked it out to Hardaway at the top of the arc. Oladipo had to race out to contest, which let Tim blow by and get to the rim. He missed the contested lay-in, but if he’d noticed Robinson free underneath it’d have been an easy dunk. The points would have gone to Robinson and the assist to Hardaway, but the man responsible for both would have been Vonleh. I’m really enjoying seeing him on a nightly basis. 14 points (on just six shots), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. WE HAVE OUR GIANNIS!
- We tend to only mention officiating when it sucks. Tonight was one of those nights the refs let both teams play, and it was fun to watch.
- Having said that — and I know the refs have a million things on their plate, every second of every game — it’d be cool if there was some off-season emphasis on the point that there is a difference between one player tying up another to cause a jump ball and one player conducting a felonious TSA stop-and-frisk in pursuit of one. Late in the game Vonleh grabbed a tough rebound in traffic and was legit assaulted. No foul. It didn’t cost the Knicks the game. I just never understand why all the normal rules of contact go out the window when someone’s after a jump ball call.
- Dotson tried going one-on-one against Young, who is big and can defend, and maaaaybe grazed rim on an awful miss. As the Knicks ran back upcourt the cameras caught Knick assistant Jud Buechler looking like he was going to vomit after seeing that miss, and it reminded me that in the ‘90s Jud Buechler was Johnny Cage.
- To his credit, on the very next possession Dotson came right back, took it right to Turner at the rim and finished a tough double-clutch bucket.
- In the midst of the Sabonis-as-Wilt rampage, Tyreke Evans got a pick from the big man and drove to the hoop. Kanter switched onto Evans, but Trier, who’d been guarding Evans, couldn’t keep the rolling Sabonis from getting enough daylight to get the dish and convert an and-one. Kanter was immediately, demonstrably pissed, which has become his m.o. Trey Burke immediately pulled Kanter and Trier together. I’ve never been in love with Burke’s game, but that was leadership. Nice to see a vet not leave a rookie alone on that island.
- Trier with another uplifting performance. 14 points, hit six of his seven shots.
- A few years ago the Pacers signed Chris Copeland, a big who’d had success in New York and become popular with the fans. Cope went from 15 minutes a night to barely over 6 in Indiana and was out of the league a few years later. Last summer the Pacers signed Kyle O’Quinn, a big who’d had success in New York and become popular with the fans. KOQ’s gone from 18 minutes a night to just 8 in Indiana. Leave our lovable bigs alone, hicks!
- Three meaningless minutes for KOQ. Doug McDermott played 13, hit one three-pointer and made Hezonja salivate every time he had a chance to go him. OAKAAKUYOAK.
- Watching multiple, multiple examples of his lockdown D on various Knick guards tonight, I’m left to wonder when Cory Joseph became Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen and Kawhi Leonard all rolled into one. Is he that good? Are they that bad?
I enjoy watching the Pacers play basketball.
- You could tell me Darren Collison is literally any age and I’d believe you. 27? Sure. 37? I’ll buy it.
- Remember Courtney Lee?
- Sabonis deserves the accolades he’ll receive for tonight. Don’t sleep on who he got his game from.
Oldheads say if Arvydas had entered the NBA in his 20s instead of at 31, after injuries robbed him of his prime, he’d have been a pantheon-level great. I believe it.
- Someone wanna get Kristaps Porzingis a tailor? Or a memo that every suit you wear doesn’t have be high-end plaid?
Quoth LatvianPrankster “Well, silver linings playbook.” No loss feels good, but good losses feel encouraging. The Knicks look to keep the goodness going Friday in Dallas. I’ll Luka out for y’all then!