The Eastern Conference’s best defensive team during the regular season, the Pacers grabbed 44 rebounds to New York’s 30 and held the Knicks to 19 three-point attempts, 10 below their regular-season average. Indiana led the entire second half, becoming the first road team to win a Game 1 during this National Basketball Association postseason.
“They flat out played harder than us,” Anthony said after yesterday’s game. “They beat us on the glass, they beat us to all the loose basketballs out there, the hustle plays, and they outworked us.”
Anthony scored a team-high 27 points and added 11 rebounds while battling foul trouble in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,033. The Knicks, who have an 0-5 record in playoff series when losing Game 1 at home, are scheduled to host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series tomorrow.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after last night’s game that his team was able to assert its style of play, with a physical defense, shared offense and a dominant rebounding performance. The Pacers had six players score more than 10 points -- including all five starters -- and their 102 points were the most the Knicks have allowed this postseason.
“That’s who we are,” Vogel said. “A strong defensive effort and offensively guys played with great poise. A complete team effort, I’m very proud of them.”
The Knicks closed a tight first quarter on a 9-0 run in which they forced three turnovers on Indiana’s final four possessions, opening a 27-22 lead. The Pacers took the lead with three minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the first half, and did not trail again.
Anthony, the NBA scoring champion, wore a sleeve over his sore left shoulder, an injury he aggravated three nights ago against the Boston Celtics. He entered the game having hit one of his previous 21 three-point attempts, and was 1-for-4 from beyond the arc last night.
Anthony has shot 32 percent in the past four games, 13 percentage points below his regular season average. After the game, he disagreed with the Pacers’ assessment that the visiting team’s physicality impacted the Knicks’ offense.
“I’ve been in more physical games than this right here,” said Anthony, who hit 10-of-28 shots. “The physicality of this game didn’t do anything to lead to us losing.”
The Knicks advanced to at least the second round of the NBA playoffs 11 times in the 12 years from 1989-2000. In that stretch they met Hall of Fame guard Reggie Miller and the Pacers six times in the postseason -- from 1993-95 and 1998-2000 -- with each team advancing three times.
This series is a match-up between the NBA’s most prolific three-point shooting team and this season’s best three-point defense. The Knicks made an NBA-record 891 shots from beyond the arc during the regular season, while the Pacers limited opponents to a league-low 32.7 three-point percentage.
While the teams split their four regular season meetings, Indiana was able to assert its defensive game both last night and in the regular season. The Pacers handed New York its worst loss of the season, a 125-91 defeat on Feb. 20, and the Knicks averaged 91.8 points per 100 possessions against Indiana, their lowest offensive efficiency against any team they played this season, according to ESPN.
“We were able to defend the three-point line,” David West, who led the Pacers with 20 points, said yesterday. “That’s what our defense is built on, making guys take contested two-point shots.”
The Knicks beat the Celtics four games to two in the opening round and won Game 6 in Boston three days ago to secure their first playoff series victory since 2000.
While New York’s second-round drought was the longest in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks have players with postseason experience and are the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of more than 31. Eight members of the 15-man roster have been to the second round with other teams, including Anthony and Jason Kidd, who has been to the conference semifinals seven times and made three NBA Finals appearances.
The third-seeded Pacers beat the Atlanta Hawks in six games, also clinching their series on the road three days ago.
“There’s a mindset when you win a Game 6 to put that series to bed and just move on to the next opponent, but we spent a lot of time looking at that game and talking about what we did,” Vogel said of the series-clinching win in Atlanta.
Last night’s victory came after the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Memphis Grizzlies 93-91 at home to open their Western Conference semifinal. Game 2 is scheduled for tomorrow, when the Knicks, who have now sold out 111 consecutive home games, will attempt to avoid going 2-0 down in the series.
“We still have six games left,” Knicks point guard Raymond Felton said. “We can’t really dwell on it, the game is over with now. We have to learn from it, watch some film, have a good practice and be ready to go on Tuesday.”
-- Editors: Erik Matuszewski, Dan Baynes
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