For Carmelo Anthony, patience was the key as he shook off a postseason shooting slump and led the New York Knicks to a 105-79 win against the Indiana Pacers that tied their National Basketball Association series at one game apiece.
Anthony scored 32 points, including a third-quarter layup that tied the game at 64-64 and triggered a 30-2 Knicks run that put the game away. Game 3 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Knicks’ first appearance in the second round since 2000, is set for May 11 at Indianapolis.
The NBA’s scoring champion said he was playing too quickly in recent games. He went 13-of-26 from the field last night at New York’s Madison Square Garden after shooting 32 percent in his previous four games. He had missed 117 shots in the playoffs heading into last night, more than all but three NBA players had attempted in the entire postseason.
“I can’t stop being aggressive,” Anthony, 28, told reporters. “I did a good job of making adjustments out there, just being patient.”
In the Western Conference semifinals, the visiting Memphis Grizzlies evened their series with the Oklahoma City Thunder at one game each by winning 99-93 last night. Mike Conley had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for Memphis, which hosts Game 3 on May 11. Kevin Durant had 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder.
Tonight, the defending champion Miami Heat try to even their series at 1-1 as they host the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs seek a 2-0 advantage against the visiting Golden State Warriors.
For the second straight game, Anthony wore a sleeve on his left shoulder because of an injury he aggravated in the previous round against the Boston Celtics. He scored 22 points in the second half and broke a 2-for-28 3-point slump with two successful shots from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter.
Now, both teams will get three days to rest. The Knicks, the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of more than 31, have not had three full days off between games since the All-Star break in the middle of February.
Pacers forward Paul George said the biggest difference in Game 2 was that Anthony “just caught fire.”
“We were still contesting shots, we made it as difficult as we could, but that’s why he’s an elite player,” George said in a news conference. “He has the ability to make contested shots.”
Anthony and Knicks coach Mike Woodson both said after New York’s 102-95 Game 1 loss on May 5 that the team was “outworked” by the Pacers, who outrebounded the Knicks 44-30 in the opener. Last night, New York had 37 rebounds, two more than Indiana, and forced 21 turnovers, and Woodson said his players “made all the hustle and necessary plays for us to win this game.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel agreed, especially regarding the fourth quarter, when Indiana was outscored 33-13.
“We turned the ball over, we didn’t make free throws, we gave up second shots, and didn’t guard the paint or the rim,” Vogel said of the final quarter before adding, “and we didn’t score.”
The Knicks had five players score in double figures last night, including Iman Shumpert with 15 and Raymond Felton with 14. The team’s 20 assists were the most they’ve had in five games.
Despite the improved play, Woodson said after the game that he did not feel momentum had shifted in the Knicks’ favor. New York has an 0-5 record in playoff series when losing Game 1 at home.
“The bottom line is that we lost home-court advantage after losing the first game, and the only way to get out of this series is we gotta go get one,” Woodson said. “It would be nice to start on Saturday.”
While the Knicks have met the Pacers in seven of their last 13 playoff appearances, this is the first series without Indiana guard Reggie Miller, nicknamed the “Knick Killer” for big playoff performances at Madison Square Garden throughout his Hall of Fame career.
Last night was the 18th anniversary of Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, when Miller scored eight points in a nine-second span to beat the Knicks 107-105 in New York.
Sitting courtside as part of TNT’s broadcast team, Miller shared a pre-game embrace with Academy Award-nominated director Spike Lee, a Knicks season ticket holder, with whom he traded verbal jabs throughout much of the 1994 and 1995 playoff series.
“This is the mecca of basketball; you are on Broadway,” Miller said in an interview with NBA TV. “It is a tremendous honor to come in here, play well, get a win, win a series and to be successful.”
-- Editors: Rob Gloster, Dex McLuskey