The New York Knicks did some good things through the first 32 1/2 minutes of Tuesday's Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden, but despite forcing and capitalizing off Pacer turnovers, they couldn't seem to separate themselves from the Central Division champions, who just kept executing their surprisingly potent offense and making shots against the Knicks defense.
Then the end of the third quarter rolled around. Well, the 3:28 mark of the third quarter, to be more accurate.
That's when the Knicks began a mammoth run that saw them shoot 63.2 percent from the floor, hold Indiana without a field goal for 10 1/2 minutes and outscore the Pacers 30-2, turning a nail-biter into a 105-79 blowout that evened the two teams' best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series at one game each with the series set to shift to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana for Game 3 on Saturday night.
But before we look forward to the weekend, let's look back at that run, which began with 3:28 remaining in the third.
That's when George Hill drilled a 3-pointer off a feed from Lance Stephenson to cap a 10-4 run that put the Pacers up 64-62. After that, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony missed a 3-pointer — his 10th missed shot in 17 tries to that point — that was rebounded by Pacers power forward David West ... and then Indiana coach Frank Vogel called a timeout. It seemed somewhat curious at the time, given the momentum Indy had built up, but his starters had all played the entire third quarter to that point and Vogel apparently wanted to get them a rest — especially center Roy Hibbert, who took a seat in favor of reserve big man Jeff Pendergraph.
From there, the Knicks went bananas, and the Pacers went in the tank.
With no Hibbert patrolling the paint and backstopping West's help defense, Anthony attacked at the Xavier product, blowing past him to the basket on consecutive possessions, with Pendergraph putting himself on the highlight reel on the second:
Five straight points from Anthony put the Knicks up 67-64 and energized the Knicks. Less than a minute later, Hill found himself trapped at half court by Knicks point guard Raymond Felton and center Kenyon Martin, resulting in a turnover and a runout dunk that Felton allowed Martin to finish in style:
After two West free throws, the Knicks scored the final three points of the quarter to push their run to 10-2 and take a 72-66 lead into the fourth quarter. And that's when things got out of hand.
The Pacers went scoreless for the first seven minutes and 12 seconds of the fourth quarter, missing 10 straight field-goal attempts, clanging three free throws and turning the ball over twice in an absolutely disastrous stretch owed in part to active Knicks defense and in part to what looked like a mix of tired legs and poor offensive execution. Want to see what misery looks like? Hint: It's red.
On the other side, for the first time in a long time, New York resembled the offensive unit that ranked as the league's third best this season, with elder statesmen guards Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni shepherding a return to ball movement, Anthony making quick decisions with the ball and taking shots in rhythm, and center Tyson Chandler jumping, catching passes and dunking, which he hasn't seemed able to do very often in the past month or so.
The offensive resurrection couldn't exhume J.R. Smith's deceased jumper, as the mercurial guard went 0 for 3 from long range during the revival. I guess even miracles have their limits.
The Knicks and their fans will gladly take this one, though; by the time Tyler Hansbrough made a free throw at the 4:48 mark of the fourth quarter, New York had opened up a 26-point lead, Vogel and Knicks head coach Mike Woodson had emptied their benches and the Knicks were well on their way to nailing down a convincing leveler after a disappointing opener.
Anthony led all scorers with 32 points on 13 for 26 shooting — the first time he's made at least 50 percent of his shots since April 12, and his first such playoff game in exactly a year and a day — to go with nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and zero turnovers in 35 minutes. Resurgent guard Iman Shumpert chipped in 15 points on 7 for 11 shooting, including one monster putback dunk, as well as six rebounds, three assists, a steal and hectoring defense on Indiana forward Paul George.
The All-Star and Most Improved Player award-winner led the Pacers with 20 points on 8 for 16 shooting, but had a whopping seven turnovers in 38 minutes. Turnovers were the Pacers' problem all night — they coughed the ball up 21 times leading to 32 New York points on Tuesday, after allowing just 13 points on 16 turnovers in their Game 1 win on Sunday.
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