The Knicks staved off what would’ve been a near-impossible mountain to climb by avoiding an 0-2 deficit, as they took care of business with a 105-79 win over the Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
New York acted as if they were the more desperate team from the start, as they jumped out to a nine-point lead after the first quarter.
Anthony finished with a game-high 32 points on 13-of-26 shooting, and added nine rebounds and two steals, as he was just as active on the defensive end as he was as on offense. It was a good sign for Anthony, who had been suffering from a sore left shoulder and shooting slump in the previous five games.
Head coach Mike Woodson said Anthony never complained about the shoulder and was impressed with the activity Anthony had on both ends of the floor, which was contagious throughout the team.
“Melo never complains much about anything,” Woodson said. “But again what I liked was the pace in the fourth quarter, offensively. It was like old times again where the ball was moving and the pick-and-roll was sharp. ... It was the best [team] offensive display we have had [in the playoffs].”
The Knicks collectively got their shot back, as they shot 49.5 percent from the floor. And while their 3-point struggles continued (33.3 percent, including missing 12-of-13 at one point), they still managed to get great open looks — meaning all they need to do is actually knock down those open shots.
Woodson didn’t sound too concerned about the long-range shot, because the way the defense has played all postseason, the Knicks will be just fine if they can knock down enough 2-point shots while stifling the other team’s offense.
“Our defense was solid. And tonight’s [offensive] display ... if you add defense to that, we’ll be fine,” said Woodson. “They didn’t score over 80 points for us. That is solid.”
The Pacers got some offense from their star Paul George, as he notched 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting — a far better performance than his Game 1 tally. But the All-Star forward committed a game-high seven turnovers. The Knicks, conversely, had seven as a team.
One of the big keys to the win, allowed Woodson, was the play of the unsung teammates.
“I didn’t forget Game 6 in Boston,” said Woodson, when asked about reserve guard Pablo Prigioni’s impact. “Pablo was big on that game and this was a big game for our ball club tonight that we had to win. We didn’t want to go to Indianapolis down two, so I had flashbacks of Boston. I went with him and he came up big.”
Prigioni was indeed the most influential unsung player as it was his 3-pointer that started an epic 30-2 run. The 35-year-old rookie tallied eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter to pick up the slack for a yet-again slumping Smith (eight points on 3-of-15 shooting). Up until Prigioni's first 3-pointer, the Knicks had missed 12 of their previous 13 attempts from behind the arc, but it was his long-range shot that changed the complexion of the game. Pacers point guard George Hill had canned his own 3-pointer to give the Pacers a rare lead, 64-26, with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter.
“I played in the playoffs and important games on different levels, overseas and Olympics. It is different but it helped me and gave me experience to play in different games,” said Prigioni. “But it was amazing for me [to hear the chanting] and I am really happy. You can’t believe how happy I am because the team played well. ... But for me it is only about the team.”
The Pacers’ offensive ineptness as a team was on full display during that stretch as they went 12 minutes without scoring a field goal, including 0-of-2 from inside the paint in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks, conversely, got hot and stayed that way until the final buzzer — even when Anthony sat for good with 4:55 remaining.
Prigioni wasn't the only player to come from Anthony's shadow and shine, as Iman Shumpert and even a scoreless Jason Kidd had large imprints on the win. Shumpert came to life with 11 of his 15 points in the first half, while Kidd’s impact was more subtle. He tallied four rebounds and two steals and was seemingly everywhere, getting his hands on loose balls and making the “hockey assist” to lead to easier buckets.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.