The Indiana Pacers are on pace to finish 34 games ahead of the New York Knicks. If you didn’t know the standings, you knew the gap in your soul after the Pacers’ 121-106 win at Madison Square Garden. This was the Knicks’ first home game since Christmas Day. After a remarkably lackluster effort, the paying customers pro’ly wouldn’t mind if the Knicks stayed away the rest of the season.
The visitors were without Myles Turner, who leads the league in blocked shots and is among the leaders in people’s rush to judgment. The Knicks started the night without Frank Ntilikina due to an injured ankle, Mitchell Robinson due to ankle and groin issues, and Enes Kanter due to cheeseburgers.
Kidding. Maybe. The official word on his absence:
Enes Kanter has flu-like symptoms and they’ve been impacting him the last two days, according to David Fizdale.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 11, 2019
David Fizdale managed to go four-and-a-half minutes before needing to call timeout, fairly late by this season’s standards. But Indiana kept getting good look after good look, many out of pick-and-rolls, while for New York...well. When Mario Hezonja is confidently front-rimming three after three and Emmanuel Mudiay’s repeatedly clanking at the rim, you’re in for a long night of mushy impotence. These are the nights when it feels like the 2015 draft could use a presidential pardon, if the president himself weren’t in need of prison time.
The Pacers got up as many as 13 in the first half, but a broken clock is right twice a day and the Knicks got right for a run. Back-to-back Tim Hardaway threes gave them their last lead of the game.
At the apex of the Knicks/Heat rivalry in the late 90s, there were times Tim Hardaway Sr. brought the ball up the floor when you just knew he was gonna pull-up from three. THJ has it, too. You can tell when he gets that tunnel vision.
And that was that. A Bojan Bogdanovic throwdown capped a 12-0 Pacer run that closed the half by turning a 52-52 tie into a fait accompli.
It wasn’t his first throwdown of the night.
Regarding the second half: Fizdale called time two minutes in, then called time again two minutes after that. The Pacers reached 80 points before the Knicks had 60. Is this all too depressing? Here. Have a Damyean Dotson four-point play.
Victor Oladipo scored nine in the third, when Indiana polished this one off. Despite hitting half their shots in the third, the Knicks still lost the quarter. You aren’t going to win when you enter the fourth having surrendered 96 points.
And that was that. Except this.
Hardaway Jr putting no weight on his left leg as he heads to the locker room pic.twitter.com/zbPET7BGlf— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) January 12, 2019
Damyean Dotson has a contused left calf and will not return according to the Knicks. No word on Hardaway yet.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) January 12, 2019
This was the Pacers’ fourth game in six nights. If my team were an Eastern conference playoff team — and they’re not — I wouldn’t wanna face this Indiana team in a best-of-seven. They’re balanced. They appear to enjoy playing together. None of their rotation players have any glaring weaknesses. That must be nice.
- Zero first-half points for Mudiay. 21 in the second. Michael Jordan had a lot of nights where he didn’t put up numbers in the first half, looked to get other guys going, then in the second half he would take over. When you’re that great, you’re working to re-shape the game, not just your place in it. Mudiay has a lot of quiet first halves followed by productive second halves. Not because he’s Jordanesque.
- Why does Hardaway every single night have that moment where he loses his dribble and falls down and turns it over? Every. Single. Night.
- The Knicks’ last game this year is April 7th. Whenever they finish with the draft and free agency and start practicing together again, they need to get to work defending the pick and roll. On April 8th the coaching staff needs to get together and start drawing up new approaches. It’s 2018, NBA offenses are in the midst of a space race, and the Knicks are still routinely decimated by the most basic play in creation. I know everyone runs pick-and-roll all day these days and gets a million actions off of it. I know teams only use it as much as they do because it works so well. But watching Indiana defend tonight, and some of Utah and the Lakers afterward, you see, right? It doesn’t flummox everybody the way it does this team. And that’s not just about the team being so young, or this year. Some problems permeate organizations for years. The Jets can’t rush the passer. The Mets can’t be owned by owners who own like they have business owning a big-market team. The Knicks can’t handle pick-and-rolls.
- Only two Trier shot attempts tonight. Two buckets. Two highlights.
Trier like Houdini out here pic.twitter.com/cc1SBdIJqg— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) January 12, 2019
- Six Pacers in double figures tonight. Doug McDermott was the sixth.
Quoth PolyphonicSprewell: “The Knicks are not...good.” The actual quote was “The Knicks are not very good,” but the “very” is a courtesy we need not indulge. The Knicks next play Sunday at 1:00 in Philadelphia. Hopefully they give us something to talk about besides injuries and not being good.