The Indiana Pacers got off to an uncharacteristic start—and then remembered they're the best team in the Eastern Conference.
The New York Knicks led 31-30 after the first quarter but lost their rhythm the rest of the game. Indiana outscored the visiting squad a whopping 87-58 over the final three quarters, dominating on offense and defense en route to a blowout, 117-89 victory.
New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward
Carmelo Anthony started off strong for New York, scoring 18 points in the first quarter on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting.
It's unfortunate that he couldn't keep it up for the entire game.
After such a hot start, Anthony went just 2-of-9 for the rest of the game. With the Knicks down by so much, he didn't play a single minute of the fourth quarter.
Anthony was the only reason New York didn't lose by more and will need more help in future games. He's often knocked for being a "blackhole" on offense, but it was the exact opposite against Indiana.
Anthony couldn't defend Paul George, though, allowing the Pacers superstar to blow the game open and create a big deficit.
He finished with 28 points and seven rebounds.
Tyson Chandler, Center
The Knicks had Tyson Chandler back after he missed a stretch of games with bronchitis, and he looked great.
Despite playing 26 minutes (and leaving momentarily), Chandler put up 13 points and nine rebounds for New York.
He went 5-of-8 from the free-throw line, providing the only consistent interior scoring presence for his team. Chandler also played terrific defense on Roy Hibbert, holding the Indiana big man to just 11 points.
With Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin leaving with left ankle injuries, Chandler will need to keep it up, depending on how long either (or both) are out rehabilitating.
Raymond Felton, Point Guard
Raymond Felton played well, statistically, but he played a key role in the Knicks' stagnant offense.
He shot 5-of-10 for 12 points but committed almost as many turnovers (four) as assists (five). Felton seemingly fell apart as the Pacers got going, but you can hardly blame him, with Indiana's strong defensive backcourt.
He's shooting just 39.9 percent for the season (and a dismal 29.6 percent from three-point range), but he was able to find a little bit of comfort in his shot against the Pacers.
In any case, New York will need much more from Felton going forward, especially if the team wants to secure a playoff spot.
Andrea Bargnani, Power Forward
Andrea Bargnani had a chance to play a pivotal role against Indiana, but he didn't.
The Pacers have a very strong defensive presence in the paint, headed by Hibbert and David West. Bargnani's perimeter shot could have conceivably stretched Indiana's defense, but he went just 3-of-9 from the field.
He also attempted just one three-point shot (a miss), although he did grab seven rebounds.
Much like Felton, Bargnani needed to contribute more both to take the pressure off Anthony and to distract the defense. Without much contribution from Bargnani, the Pacers were able to lock in on the Knicks' star forward and close out the game.
The Knicks Bench
New York had a plethora of solid veterans on the bench to contribute, but it didn't come together against Indiana.
Both Stoudemire and Martin went down with left-ankle injuries, leaving a depleted reserve unit that much more empty. Stoudemire chipped in eight points and three rebounds in 14 minutes, with Martin playing just seven minutes.
J.R. Smith, who saw some court action after being benched against the Charlotte Bobcats, had 12 points in 28 minutes. He shot 6-of-12, but he had just one assist (and zero untied shoelaces) in a Knicks offense that seemingly froze against the Pacers.
New York didn't get much from the reserves, but it's not entirely their fault either.
Paul George, Small Forward
Paul George led the way for Indiana, scoring 25 points and snatching seven rebounds off the glass. He shot an efficient 8-of-17 on field goals, knocking down four three-point shots.
He also locked in on Carmelo Anthony down the stretch, playing a major role in limiting Anthony's scoring after the first period.
Against the Knicks, George exhibited his skill as one of the best two-way players in the league, dominating the game on both ends of the floor. His versatility and consistency kept the Pacers ahead in this one, and in turn atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
It's very likely that Lance Stephenson will join the All-Star team this season, and he's absolutely deserving.
He chipped in a career-high points scored in the regular season, with 28, shooting 10-of-17 from the field. Stephenson also had four rebounds and four assists, showboating his way through New York's defense en route to a terrific night.
Stephenson is a severely underrated guard in the NBA, but he definitely got some more exposure after his outing against the Knicks.
Roy Hibbert, Center
Much like Shane Battier of the Miami Heat, Roy Hibbert's value doesn't show up in the box score.
He had 11 points, six rebounds and a blocked shot, but his mere presence in the interior was integral to Indiana defeating New York.
Hibbert shot 4-of-9 from the field, but he had his biggest impact on the defensive end. The Knicks had just 22 points in the paint, with Hibbert's 7'2" frame posing as an intimidating presence.
His single blocked shot isn't indicative of his impact defensively. Hibbert played a major role as the backbone of the Pacers defense.
David West, Power Forward
Much like Hibbert, David West's physical impact on the game doesn't show up statistically.
He scored 12 points, but had just three rebounds on the night. Each player who suited up for New York snatched three or more, so that doesn't say much for West's role in the frontcourt.
Yet, as aforementioned, it wasn't a part of the game West necessarily needed to impact for his team to succeed.
He played tough defense on Bargnani, Stoudemire and anyone else who went into the paint, ensuring that the Knicks continued to shoot from the outside (where they converted just 21.1 percent on three-point attempts).
The Pacers Bench
Indiana has a deep reserve unit this season, with the likes of Danny Granger and Luis Scola leading the charge. The duo went for 11 points and 10 points respectively, joined by another five bench players to score for the Pacers.
The Pacers didn't miss a beat with the reserves coming in; regardless of New York's struggles this season, Indiana's reserves played a key role in the victory.
The Indy bench outscored New York's 38-26 on the night.
What's Next for the Knicks?
New York lost two key frontcourt players in Stoudemire and Martin. The team was already without Pablo Prigioni and Metta World Peace, and it just got Chandler back.
The Knicks can't catch a break this season, but the team does have a relatively mild schedule ahead.
At least, that's what Knicks fans hope.
What's Next for the Pacers?
The Pacers will play the Clippers in Indiana on January 18 before heading West for a five-game road trip.
The latter two teams have struggled mightily this season, but Indiana will need to be prepared for the other three matchups.
As evidenced by tonight's game, the Pacers are locked in as the best defensive team in the NBA. The excess of talent, experience and chemistry the team has is second to very few and will ensure that Indiana has a mostly successful trip.
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