The Knicks have been undersized and outmanned in the frontcourt all season, but were able to get away with it. It came back to bite them Saturday night in a disappointing, 82-71, loss to the Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Center Tyson Chandler was an All-Star reserve this season, but played like anything but as fellow All-Star pivot Roy Hibbert dominated the matchup. Hibbert, a 7-foot-2 wall that anchors the Pacers’ interior, had a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Chandler could only muster nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.
The Knicks were never really in synch, as they trailed almost wire-to-wire and never got their offense going. The dysfunction was evident almost immediately, as New York had more turnovers (eight) by the 4:50 mark of the second quarter than they did all of last game (seven). They ultimately finished with 15 turnovers, something they’ll need to shore up before Tuesday’s Game 4 as they’re not equipped to play as sloppy as they did against the defensive-minded Pacers.
New York now trails the series, 2-1, and is starting to look like a team that’s feeling the pressure – particularly on the offensive end. The Knicks have yet to really duplicate their regular-season success against a Pacers defense that is amongst the stingiest in the league. If not for Carmelo Anthony’s team-high 21 points, the outcome would’ve been much worse for a Knicks squad which has failed to give Anthony a dependable No. 2 option on offense.
J.R. Smith, Anthony’s sidekick for most of the season, has vanished this series. He hasn’t been the same explosive and reliable scorer since the elbowing incident toward the end of Game 3 in Boston in the first round. The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year only gave the Knicks nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in 25 uninspired minutes. Perhaps Smith could be excused for his less than stellar Game 3, as he was suffering from high fever and illness prior to shootaround.
He’ll need to rebound quickly, preferably by Game 4 in Indianapolis, or the Knicks will face the real possibility of going back to New York down 3-1 in the series.
What we saw ...
1. The Knicks inexplicably shot poorly from behind the arc, as they went 3-of-11, and were so out of sorts that by the start of the fourth quarter they had only hoisted seven 3-pointers. Nobody in orange and blue had it going from long range, as no one made more than two 3-pointers.
2. The Pacers came into the series with a significant advantage in size and frontcourt depth, but really took advantage of it in Game 3. Indiana began the game shooting a horrid .319 percent from the field, but still held a halftime lead in large part due to a collective crashing of the boards. The Pacers held a 31-20 rebounding advantage in the first half, including 13 offensive boards, en route to a 53-40 lead on the glass (18 on the offensive end). The Pacers were paced by 12 rebounds apiece from Hibbert and power forward David West. Paul George added eight boards from the small forward position.
3. George didn’t have a great offensive game – no one did, really – but he made sure to leave an imprint elsewhere, as he added eight rebounds, eight assists and a game-high five steals. The league’s Most Improved Player finished with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting, including a paltry 2-of-12 from behind the arc, but did what no Knick was able to do – find a way to contribute without having an impactful game on the offensive end.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.