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Pacers 140, Knicks 126: “Happy New Year!“

Dark past, blinding bright future!

2023 NBA Playoffs Game Five - New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

It looks like the New York Knicks played a game on Dec. 30. Did they?

I know they did some off-the-court stuff, but I’m not sure they went into any hardwood business...

Yes, of course they did! It wasn’t that fun to watch, however, as the Knicks played the second game of a back-to-back on-the-road affair ending in Indianapolis on Saturday, losing for the third time in a row, this time to the Pacers, 140-126.

Once more, the Knicks allowed a team to wipe the floor with their bodies as the Hoosiers went on to score an undeniable 32, 32, 41, and 35 points as the quarters kept coming to an end. New York, as is nearly always the case, wasn’t bad—they scored 120+ points for the ninth time this month out of 14 chances—but there is just no way to win a game when you give up 35 points per frame.

This season, the Knicks have scored 120+ points in 13 games with a record of 9-4 in those outings. The Knicks have allowed 120+ points 10 times and they are 4-6 on those matchups.

In the NBA as a whole, teams allowing 120+ points to their opponents have won just 82 of a possible 347 such games (23.6%). Tall task, beating the odds.

This time, the Knicks get a bit of a pass. The trade with the Toronto Raptors left New York short of warm bodies (RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley were ineligible) and on top of everything Quentin Grimes caught the flu (ayo QG, we navigating the same s***!) and was also ruled out ahead of tip-off.

The result? An eight-man rotation and a unique starting five with only three backups sitting on the pine and getting sizable time with four others getting a tasty cup-o-coffee.

The excuse, truth be told, is very valid—ask the OVOs. Toronto couldn’t count on OG Anunogy, Malachi Flynn, and Precious Achiuwa... ended up playing a game against the disastrous Detroit Pistons in which all five starters got 35+ minutes of playing time... and lost 129-127 on the day Detroit finally put an end to their never-ending, historic 28-game losing skid.

Devastating, these trades.

A loss is a loss, mind you, and New York (17-15) is now sitting behind the very own Pacers (17-14) in the Eastern Conference standings while still in possession of favorable (but still) Play-In seed, no. 8 out east.

If the Pacers are known for anything, that’s for running teams out of gyms. And that’s exactly what they did.

It took Indy some time to get into a rhythm, but once they did everything clicked. To wit: Tyrese Haliburton dished out a franchise-high 23 dimes to go with 22 pops against only two turn-Os.

This is the list of players with a Double-22 and 2-or-fewer TOs (regular season and playoffs) in reverse chronological order: Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton (x2), Hali. The league hadn't witnessed such a performance since Dec. 1990. I hadn’t yet been born, dawgs.

Another man who hadn’t been born then, five years my junior, is Donte DiVincenzo.

I mention DiVo because he notched a high-water mark in his career stat book: 38 points, which is 14 more than his prior-best figure before joining New York when he nailed 24 points as a member of the 2021 Champ Bucks. Funnily enough, he did it against the then-Josh Hart’s Pelicans.

DiVincenzo simply took RJ’s vacated role/shots and ran with it. Hosted 21 field-goal attempts, found the net on 15 of them, went 7-of-11 from 3-point range while filling the box score across the board with six rebounds, four steals, two assists, and one block.

The minus-17 plus/minus tells you all you need to know about this game.

New York led the game 67-64 with 2:15 played coming off halftime. That was it on the green for the Knickerbockers, however, as Indy built a 16-point lead by the 11-minute mark of that same quarter before reaching their largest gap (17 points) with about five minutes left to play in the game.

“First half we hung in there pretty good,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We scored plenty, but we got to play defense. The third quarter they got the cushion on us. They’re a heck of an offensive team.”

Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle scored 28 points apiece. Josh Hart added 10 and joined Randle on the dub-dub beat as the big put up a 28-12 and the wing-turned-starter got himself a smooth 10-10.

Isiah Hartenstein started again at center with Jericho Sims not playing but was named into the Knicks gameday squad for the first time since he went down injured. Expect his return at some point next week or shortly after.

“RJ, he’s like a little brother to me. We’ve been through ups and downs year after year together. It’s tough,” Randle said after the game talking about the trade that had been made official hours earlier. “Quick is like a little brother, too. I think they’re going to be great for a long time, and I’ll always be a fan from a distance.”

Nobody outside Miles McBride could audition for a bigger role on Saturday with Grimes out and Taj Gibson playing 14 minutes but knowing his role will vanish once Achiuwa gets on a plane with destination to LaGuardia.

McBride had a nice day on and off the court. Started Saturday moving up in the pecking order with IQ out of town. Followed that up with a five-point, one-assist performance against the Pacers. Finished the 24-hour journey knowing a three-year extension with the Knicks is now official. Not bad, kiddo!

For those keeping track at home, Obi Toppin had nine points, eight rebounds, three blocks, and two assists off the pine not even needing 20 minutes to get there. Three wins in a row for the Hoosiers with Obi leading the second unit. An impact guy illuminating a bench mob, who would have thought? At least the Knicks still have one.

No more games in 2023.

This year we enjoyed the extraordinary arrival of Josh Hart, All-Star Randle, the playoffs, winning a postseason series for the first time in ages, a reasonably quiet summer, and finally, a blockbuster (as sad as it was to see RJ and IQ go) to put the cherry on this Knickerbocker cake.

On to another equally good, hopefully, better year in 2024.

Happy New Year, P&Ters, and Go Knicks!