The Pacers made their three point shots and the Knicks did not, and that was the difference in the game.
Indiana center Myles Turner’s career high of seven three pointers was more than the Knicks made from beyond the arc all night long as the Pacers scored a 111-98 win at Gainbridge Fieldhouse last night. Turner was averaging 1.5 threes per game.
Indiana led wire to wire after bolting to an 11-0 lead a little over two minutes into the game. Turner, who led Indiana with 25 points, scored the first eight points of the game and Pacers rookie Chris Duarte added a three before R.J. Barrett hit a three for the Knicks’ first points of the game.
The Knicks were averaging 16 made threes per game but Indiana’s defense made things difficult. The Knicks shot 21% (5 for 24) from three point range and made only one three pointer in the second half.
Indiana was the team with 16-threes and it brought back memories of the defensive deficient Knick teams of the recent past. “We have to do three things to put ourselves in position to win. That’s defend, rebound and keep the turnovers down. We did one of the three, our turnovers were down, but our defense wasn’t there and our rebounding wasn’t there,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game.
“We gotta get our transition defense in order,” Randle said after the game. “Gettin’ a lot of transition threes off our defense that we’re giving up. We just can’t do that if we want to win games.”
The Knicks were playing uphill all game long because of Indiana’s fast start. It seemed every time they made a move to narrow the deficit, the Pacers would provide answers to keep them at arms length.
The Pacers led 36-22 after one and 59-50 at halftime. The Knicks cut it to a five point deficit, 85-80, entering the fourth quarter.
With less than ten minutes left, Derrick Rose scored to cut the lead to 85-83 but T.J. McConnell hit a three and back up center Gogi Bitadze forced Rose to turn it over and scored a lay up to put the lead back up to seven. Indiana’s centers combined for nine-three pointers with Bitadze hitting two of his own.
The Knicks could never get closer than four points from that point on. Thibodeau feels his team needs to realize that the fourth quarter of these games is played at a different level. “The intensity of the fourth quarter is gonna be greater than the first three quarters. We have to understand that and we have to understand how the game is being managed. There’s a physicality to it and that’s what we have to be ready for,” he said.
Julius Randle, (0 for 5) Evan Fournier (1 for 5) and Kemba Walker (0 for 5) were a combined 1 for 12 from beyond the arc. Walker was 2 for 11 overall.
Barrett had another solid game as he led the Knicks with 23 points including 12 in the third quarter. The third year pro is beginning to take his game to another level and his teammates have taken notice. “He’s attacking the rim really well, shooting the three well, he’s getting out, getting easy looks in transition,” Randle said.
Randle had 18 points and 14 rebounds but he’s still trying to force the offense and continues to have turnover problems. Rose had 13 off the bench but Immanuel Quickley continues to be a non factor.
Nerlens Noel made his season debut. Noel, who missed the entire pre season and the first seven games with a sore knee, played 18 minutes and grabbed six rebounds.
Former Net Caris Lavert scored 7 of his 21 points in the third quarter. After Barrett cut the lead to 69-66, Lavert ran off six straight points to make it a ten point margin once again, 76-66.
It was an ugly loss for the Knicks who have dropped two in a row for the first time and lost on the road for the first time this season. Next up, the Knicks’ first look at the defending NBA Champions on Friday.
“Give the Pacers credit. They started off their season with some tough losses, now they’re playing great basketball so things in this league, they change quickly and so we gotta make it change quickly,” said Thibodeau. “We’re going to Milwaukee, they’re a terrific team and we gotta be ready.”