David West led the Pacers with 20 points as six Indiana players scored in double figures, including all five members of the starting unit.
Even though he was credited with five blocks, the box score hardly does justice to Roy Hibbert's defensive presence in the middle. He completely shut down the Knicks' interior game. If there was a Game 1 MVP, it was almost certainly Indiana's hulking center.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 27 points, but he seemed to be bothered more than most by Hibbert's interior defense. On the day he earned a single first-place MVP vote, Anthony shot the ball 28 times and registered just a single assist.
He made just three shots on 12 attempts in the lane, continuing an alarming trend of postseason inaccuracy from an area of the floor that should yield far more scoring efficiency. A quick look at his postseason shot chart reveals the startling deficiency in his interior scoring.
Hibbert's play helps explain 'Melo's difficulties in Game 1, but in looking at what's clearly become a larger trend, it's hard to understate the impact of the bum left shoulder that Anthony has struggled with for a few weeks. When Kevin Garnett aggravated it during the first round, it's possible he might have unwittingly made a huge impact on the second.
To their credit, the Knicks started out impressively, spacing the floor and utilizing Raymond Felton's quickness to work a number of successful pick-and-roll sets. Hibbert's biggest weakness as a defender is his lack of mobility, so when the Knicks forced him to defend in space, it opened up opportunities for its perimeter shooters on the weak side.
And by using Pablo Prigioni as a second-unit leader, Mike Woodson ensured that the ball movement didn't stop when Felton was resting.
Prigioni wasn't the only N.Y. reserve to make an early impact, either. After seeing no playing time for nearly a week, Chris Copeland knocked down some early shots as the ball found him on the weak side, and it appeared the Knicks might have found a way to attack Indiana's usually unforgiving defense.
But a few adjustments by the Pacers and a curious departure from what appeared to be an effective offensive strategy by the Knicks combined to halt New York's early momentum just as quickly as it had begun to roll.
The Pacers dominated the second quarter, scoring 30 points on just 20 possessions and expanding their halftime lead to six points. And the third quarter started out much like the second ended—with Indiana getting good shots and converting them.
From there, the Knicks fell back into the bad habits that plagued them during their contentious series with the Celtics.
Anthony couldn't score at the rim, J.R. Smith tossed up errant shot after errant shot and the spacing and ball movement all but disappeared. Hibbert effectively shut down the paint, and as the Knicks complained about some frustrating no-calls, the Pacers took the ball the other way and continued to hurt the Knicks with surprising offensive balance and excellent perimeter shooting.
On the night, the typically streaky Pacers buried half of their first dozen three-point attempts, eventually cooling off to hit 35 percent of their triples. When the Pacers' outside shots are falling at even an average rate, their defense makes them nearly impossible to beat.
Indiana clearly fired a meaningful first shot in this series, but the Knicks have a pretty good idea of what they need to do to avoid similar results during the remaining games of their second-round matchup—because they actually had something going in the first quarter.
It's starting to sound like a broken record at this point, but the Knicks simply have to get the ball moving in a way that forces the Pacers' rock-solid D to shift. More pick-and-rolls and a bigger emphasis on transition scoring are musts for the Knicks.
And as usual, they've got to get away from trying to beat Indiana's defense individually. The isolation sets have to go.
If the Knicks can't make some wholesale changes to their offense (and attitude), the blue-collar Pacers could make short work of this series.
Things started out nicely for the Knicks. The ball was moving, Indiana's defense was scrambling to cover shooters and Felton was causing trouble.
Knicks clearly feel they have something on these side pick-and-rolls producing 3-pointers on the weak side.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 5, 2013
After catching so much flak for a heavy emphasis on isolation sets, it appeared as though the Knicks had changed their ways.
If Indiana is gonna keep letting the Knicks get middle on these P&Rs from the corner, let's just keep running them.— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) May 5, 2013
But the tide turned during the second quarter as the Pacers surprisingly turned up their offense and short-circuited that pick-and-roll action that New York had used to great effect in the first.
Pacers score 30 in the second, which might be one more 30-point quarter than I thought we'd see in this series. They lead 52-46.— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) May 5, 2013
And strangely, one of the Knicks' key pieces all but disappeared.
Chandler had a strong first quarter ... What happened since then? #Knicks— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) May 5, 2013
Unsurprisingly, there were some instances of wild shots and ill-advised offense from the usual suspects.
Anybody on the Knicks bench want to recommend to J.R. that driving directly into Hibbert isn't a brilliant idea?— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) May 5, 2013
And before the MSG faithful knew it, the Knicks had fallen back into old habits. Even worse, Anthony was totally ineffective inside.
Melo is now shooting 16-for-40 (40 percent) in the restricted area in the playoffs. Not finishing when he's contested at the rim.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 5, 2013
The emotional wheels came off for New York in the third quarter.
No team reacts worse when the calls don't go their way than New York. Been a problem all season. Not just complaints, affects play.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 5, 2013
And even though the Knicks didn't do themselves any favors by whining about so many calls, there were some instances, like Anthony's dunk attempt over Hibbert in the fourth quarter, that definitely should have drawn a whistle.
Now that...that was a foul.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 5, 2013
Momentum clearly carried over from these teams' prior series.
Knicks finished Celtics series poorly, Pacers finished Hawks series strongly. Carried over into today. Long way to go yet, tho.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 5, 2013
The Pacers showed up in a big way in Game 1, meaning the Knicks will have to make some serious adjustments in order to avoid a 2-0 hole before they head back to Indiana.