It wasn’t always pretty, but the Knicks found a way to stave off elimination and push the series back to Indiana, as they held off the Pacers, 85-75, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Knicks enjoyed some good news pregame, as Pacers starting point guard George Hill was ruled out with a concussion he suffered in Game 4 when he crashed into a hard pick from Tyson Chandler. Hill was replaced in the lineup by D.J. Augustin, who had 12 points, but the Pacers offense sorely missed their floor leader.
Carmelo Anthony had a brilliant game as he tallied 28 points on 12-of-28 shooting and six rebounds. Anthony had perhaps his best all-around game as he got his hands on loose balls, battling rugged power forward David West (17 points and 10 rebounds) to a standstill in the post and scoring late in the fourth quarter — something he’s failed to do in the previous two games.
Anthony wasn’t alone, however, as Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and even Chris Copeland picked up the slack when the Pacers defenders were paying too much attention to the league’s leading scorer.
Copeland, who was inexplicably left on the bench most of the series prior to tonight, scored 13 points — including eight in the pivotal third quarter when he helped the Knicks boost a six-point halftime lead to its largest margin of 10 points.
“It is a blessing. I’m extremely excited that I had some impact on the game. I hope I can do it again next game,” Copeland said. “I think I can help us spread the floor and get guys away from the basket. I think I can help Melo get opportunities on the block and space for J.R.”
Woodson, who never really gave a reason for burying Copeland on the bench, despite the team’s offensive struggles in all of their three losses, was impressed with the 29-year-old rookie’s ability to stay ready.
“It was a big lift throughout the whole game,” Woodson said, never really mentioning Copeland by name. “Our offense has spurted at times, but tonight we found our offense. We changed some things a little bit tonight ... and tried to change some of our sets to see if it worked.”
The insertion of Copeland worked even if Woodson refused to acknowledge the rookie’s impact.
Smith also finally shook his series-long doldrums to contribute 13 points. Smith shot 4-of-11, as the controversial shooting guard finally lived up to his Sixth Man of the Year status for the first time all series. Smith also added six rebounds and a blocked shot.
The fact that the Knicks were so active in the paint was arguably the biggest difference. The Pacers dominated the interior in each of the previous three wins in the series, but seemed out of sorts Thursday night.
All-Star center Roy Hibbert was finally a nonfactor as he was essentially cancelled out by the Knicks’ own All-Star center, Tyson Chandler. Both bigs were hindered by foul problem for most of the game, but the Knicks will take that every time. Hibbert finished with just nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while Chandler had two points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Chandler wasn’t much of factor again, but his teammates picked up the slack as they collectively defended the paint and attacked the glass. The Knicks had been pounded on the boards all series by the bigger and younger Pacers, but they finally held their own. The Pacers still won the rebounding battle, 43-40, but the Knicks didn’t allow them to dictate the play in the paint. The Pacers held only a slight advantage on the offensive boards, 12-10, which meant New York limited the second-chance points that harmed them most of the series.
“It was the second-chance points [that hurt the Knicks in the three losses]. We got outrebounded badly and that was the difference then,” Woodson said. “We were outrebounded tonight, but we had enough going for us defensively, as well as our offense, that it didn’t hurt us. ... We have to have the same commitment when we step out on the floor at Conseco [now Bankers Life] Fieldhouse on Saturday.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.