Keys for the Indiana Pacers to Beat the NY Knicks in the Second Round
The series is deadlocked at one game apiece with the next two games shifting to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It's really a breath of fresh air for the Pacers, who are 3-0 at home in the postseason and looked anything like a championship contender in Game 2.
With the two games behind us, certain trends have developed. Some are good (Pacers' rebounding), and some are bad (Pacers' turnovers). Indiana has to regroup and go back to the drawing board if it wants to get a leg up on New York.
Going into Game 3 on Saturday, some questions still linger.
Will the Pacers be able to finally stifle the Knicks' vaunted long-range shooting?
How will they put Carmelo Anthony in foul trouble again like they did in their Game 1 win?
If Indiana is able to do both of these and more, they can really turn the tide back in their favor.
1. Cut Down on Turnovers
The Indiana Pacers are the second-worst in terms of turnovers per game (16.3) among the remaining eight teams in the playoffs. Paul George is the worst offender, averaging 5.5 turnovers per game against the Knicks.
What's even more alarming is that the 21 turnovers the Pacers committed in Game 2 led to 32 points for New York.
On the other hand, the Pacers are not forcing as many turnovers as they would like. For the series, the Knicks are averaging just eight per contest. Official ESPN playoff stats indicate the Knicks are one of the league's best in minimizing their miscues while forcing their opponents into making a lot.
Indiana didn't look anything like the defensive and rebounding juggernaut it is in Game 2. It simply allowed New York to play to one of its strengths, which is forcing turnovers.
End result: blowout loss for the Pacers.
David West put it so bluntly after the carnage:
A lot of this was self-inflicted. Give them credit. They did a good job pressuring us, but we didn't handle their pressure and we didn't attack the basket.
The half-court set execution in the second half of Game 2 was atrocious. For the Pacers to reduce their turnover numbers, they have to work on their spacing and their rotations. Nothing would frustrate New York more than crisp offensive execution on the part of Indiana.
Until the Pacers solve their turnover dilemma, this is one series they may let slip away. It's really all on them.
2. Stifle New York's Perimeter Shooting
You just know things are going bad for the Pacers if they let somebody like Pablo Prigioni, who averaged only 3.5 points per game in the regular season, score 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in a supporting role for the Knicks.
As a group, New York has always thrived on the three-pointer. They are fourth in the playoff field of eight as far as three-point percentage is concerned.
The Pacers, who were the best in defending the three during the regular season, are a mere shadow of what they were in this regard. So far, they have allowed the Knicks an average of close to nine threes per contest on 34.7 percent shooting (17-of-49).
Indiana needs to clamp down on guys like Prigioni and Raymond Felton, who both had field days in Game 2. Of course, Carmelo Anthony and even J.R. Smith (the most trigger-happy Knick shooting just 3-of-13 from three-point distance) shouldn't be left out of the equation.
For Indiana to succeed, there should be no open looks for New York. Defenders like Paul George and George Hill have to do a better job in fighting off screens.
Roy Hibbert and David West must also continue asserting themselves on the glass to prevent Tyson Chandler from gobbling up offensive rebounds, leading to kick-outs for wide-open looks.
3. Score at Least 100 Points and Limit the Knicks Below This Number in Each Game
The Indiana Pacers are 5-1 in the playoffs when they limit their opponents to below 100 points.
As for the New York Knicks, they are coming off a first-round conquest of the Boston Celtics in which neither team scored more than 100 points in all six games.
What this tells us is the Knicks are comfortable with a grind-it-out defensive affair. If they can win by scoring only 85 points and harassing their opponents into making all of those turnovers, so be it.
But here's the catch: the Pacers are also 4-0 and a much different ball club when they score more than 100 points and limit the opposition to a production below this number.
Case in point: Game 1 of this series.
You can also refer to the Pacers' 125-91 regular-season blowout victory against the Knicks on Feb. 20.
On the other hand, what did Indiana in during the second half of Game 2 was poor offense predicated on sloppy execution. Stats do not lie: the Pacers are at their absolute best when they execute efficiently on both ends of the court.
More specifically, Roy Hibbert was a no-show in terms of scoring in Game 2. When his game is on, he can take Tyson Chandler to school.
Hibbert must charge this to experience and become more assertive in Indiana's offense in the next few games.
4. Get Carmelo Anthony in Foul Trouble
Carmelo Anthony is the main cog in the Knicks' offense.
With this in mind, it only makes sense to constantly do what the Pacers did in their Game 1 win—get him in foul trouble.
Anthony picked up his fourth foul with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter of Game 1. Indiana then seized the opportunity by outscoring New York 20-11 to go up by 16 at the end of the period. They went on to enjoy a lead they never relinquished.
In contrast, Anthony didn't pick up his fourth foul until there was only 4:55 left in the fourth quarter of Game 2, a contest in which the Pacers got blown out, 105-79. By the time Carmelo picked up his fourth foul, the outcome in New York's favor was already never in doubt.
Herein lies the difference with Anthony's foul woes in Games 1 and 2.
The lesson here is this: the earlier he gets in foul trouble, the better. The more he gets pulled in and out of the game, the higher the chances are that his offense will be thrown out of sync.
Five fouls in Game 1 on 10-of-28 shooting. Pacers for the win.
This is something they can live with.
Being the scorer that he is, Anthony will still get his points, but Indiana must come up with every conceivable tactic to stymie him.
One such tactic is for the Pacers to have him commit to guarding David West down low. This match-up should have West pound the ball in the low post time and again hoping to bait Anthony into committing useless fouls.
If the Pacers get it going on offense while Carmelo is on the bench, their chances of winning will be as good as ever.
5. Protect Home Court
After the monumental thrashing they received in Game 2, the Pacers should still hold their heads up high.
Even though they let an opportunity to go up 2-0 in the series slip away, they were at least able to get a split with the next two games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
They should also use the next few days as a respite to ponder on the things that went wrong in Game 2.
The 30-2 run New York unleashed in the second half.
The questionable timeout called by Coach Frank Vogel with 3:09 left in the third quarter, which set the stage for the Knicks' onslaught.
Paul George's seven turnovers.
Roy Hibbert's six points.
Games 3 and 4 in Indiana should boost the morale of the team. They should expect the home fans, who haven't had a taste of Pacers vs. Knicks playoff basketball in 13 years, to be all fired up.
David West said it best in a report filed by Chris Mannix of CNN Sports Illustrated:
We'll have a great environment. We just have to protect our home floor.
An absolute must in order for the Indiana Pacers to make an emphatic statement against their playoff rivals, the New York Knicks.