Domantas Sabonis had 22 points and 15 rebounds and Victor Oladipo added 19 points as the Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks 121-106 on Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Emmanuel Mudiay had 21 points for the 10-32 Knicks, who have lost 16 of their last 18 games. Kevin Knox scored 14.
The 28-14 Pacers maintained their hold on third place in the Eastern Conference.
Nate McMillan Deserves Coach of the Year Consideration
Pacers head coach Nate McMillan deserves as much consideration for the NBA's Coach of the Year award as anyone.
First, he's guided the Pacers to a 28-14 record despite missing Oladipo for 11 full games and Myles Turner for five. Oladipo is the team's leading scorer at 19.9 points per game, while Turner has a league-leading 2.8 blocks per contest and is ranked sixth in the NBA in defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN.com.
Second, the defense is much improved year over year. Last season, the Pacers ranked tied for 12th in defensive efficiency. That number has dramatically risen to No. 2 in the NBA and No. 1 in the Eastern Conference.
Third, a few individual Pacers' games have gone to new levels this year. Sabonis had a sky-high 24.2 PER heading into Friday. Bojan Bogdanovic is shooting a career-high 50.4 percent from the field. Thaddeus Young was hitting 53.3 percent of his shots entering Friday, his best mark in eight years.
On Friday evening, all of those reasons coalesced and helped the Pacers blow out the Knicks.
One might think the Pacers were destined to cream New York given the Knicks' poor record, but OddsShark listed Indiana as just eight-point favorites. Indiana led by 12 at the half and ended up winning by 15.
Turner was out Friday, but the Knicks still committed 16 turnovers and struggled offensively. They shot just 44.3 percent from the field. Furthermore, the Pacers outscored the Knicks 58-48 in the paint.
New York couldn't handle Sabonis down low, Bogdanovic drilled a trio of three-pointers and Young had four steals. The Pacers led by double digits for the entire second half.
McMillan has some tough competition for the Coach of the Year. Mike Budenholzer has led the Milwaukee Bucks, who were 44-38 last season, to a 29-12 mark and second-place standing in the Eastern Conference. Nick Nurse has guided the Toronto Raptors to the league's best record. Mike Malone of the Denver Nuggets has his team No. 1 in the West, and Kenny Atkinson somehow has the Brooklyn Nets in the playoff picture despite a 28-54 mark last year.
But it's important to remember that the Pacers were supposed to enter tank mode after trading Paul George in 2017. No one picked them to do anything last season (understandably so given the circumstances), but the Pacers earned the No. 5 seed and took the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers to the seven-game limit in the first round.
Now they have an outside chance at the East's No. 1 seed, and McMillan deserves a large chunk of credit for that success.
The Pacers host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, and the Knicks will stay home to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Zach Lowe was the guest on the latest edition of The Full 48 podcast and spoke about the Knicks and much more. To hear the Knicks discussion, jump to 46:48.