Pacers knock off shorthanded Knicks
INDIANAPOLIS — First the Heat, now the Knicks.
The Indiana Pacers are proving they can beat up on everyone in the Eastern Conference these days.
Paul George scored seven of his 25 points during a decisive 13-0 fourth-quarter run, leading the Pacers past New York 81-76 on a night the Knicks were without their top scorer, Carmelo Anthony. Indiana has won 12 of 15 and swept the two other Eastern Conference division leaders this week.
“We want to compete for the one and two (seeds) and for sure want to compete for the No. 1 spot,” George said. “We probably could be pushing one or two if we would have started off playing the way we’re playing right now.”
Clearly, the Knicks (23-12) weren’t the same without their All-Star forward, who was suspended for the game after Monday’s postgame confrontation with Boston’s Kevin Garnett. They finished with a season-low point total, shot just 34.8 per cent from the field and 20 per cent from 3-point range.
And the Pacers (22-14) took Anthony’s absence by pulling off a rare double — beating defending champion Miami and Atlantic Division-leading New York — in back-to-back games.
It’s about time. The Pacers came into this season with high expectations, but struggled early as they tried to adjust to life without their top scorer, Danny Granger, who still has not played because of a left knee injury.
Now, they’re rolling. Indiana has won nine straight home games, their longest streak since 2002-03, and their suffocating defence limited the short-handed Knicks to just three points over the final 6 1/2 minutes of the first quarter and into 11 straight misses during the opening part of the fourth.
“They did what they had to do to secure the win,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
Nobody did more than Indiana’s new leader.
George started the game by missing his first five shots, but wound up finishing 10 of 24 from the field. He also had 11 rebounds, six steals, five assists and one block on a night point guard George Hill played with bronchitis and All-Star centre Roy Hibbert left twice with a bad back.
But George got help from some surprising places.
Ian Mahinmi finished with 13 points and six rebounds, and Lance Stephenson added nine points and seven rebounds.
“He (George) is just blossoming in front of our eyes with special performance after special performance after special performance,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s leading our defence, which is becoming a beast and our guys are embracing that identity.”
It wasn’t just Anthony who was missing for New York. He spent the day at the team hotel. Doctors also told Woodson to limit Amare Stoudemire to 21 minutes as he tries to work his way back from October knee surgery.