When the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks met in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring, Roy Hibbert's at-the-rim rejection of a Carmelo Anthony dunk attempt in the fourth quarter of Game 6 was a massive turning point, deflating New York and energizing Indy to rip off a run that would end with a Pacers win and a series victory. It was a big enough deal that two separate people gave the Pacers center framed pictures of the swat to hang in his home, so that he'd never forget the moment he lit the candle on the sequence that ended the Knicks' season.
After the second quarter of the Knicks' Thursday night visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, it's looking like Hibbert's going to have to reserve some more some more wall space:
Anthony gets the ball in the post, spins baseline on Indiana defender Paul George, gets a step, elevates to the rim — with two hands this time — and still gets his dunk swatted away by the big guy. Oof.
The way the Pacers defended the play — including George being beaten off the ball — might actually be more strategy than slip-up, as Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal wrote in a breakdown of Indiana's strategy to contain Anthony:
The top-ranked Pacers defense appears completely content to let Anthony drive into the lane. And Anthony, as one of the game's top scorers, is always happy to do so. In fact, he has averaged more shots at the rim against Indiana in the past three seasons than against any other team. But, much like trying to win a toy out of an amusement-park claw machine, trying to score at the rim against Indiana is often an illusion.
The Pacers essentially want Anthony to get a step on defender Paul George so he can advance to the basket and face the boss: Roy Hibbert, Indiana's 7-foot-2-inch tree of a center.
"They invite you to go at the big fella," said ex-Knicks guard Jason Kidd.
And in case we'd forgotten why, Thursday evening offered a reminder.
The Pacers already led by 13 at the time of Hibbert's block, and pushed the advantage to 15 points on a David West layup just before halftime, before proceeding to finish the Knicks off early in the third quarter (as they've done to opponents all season long) with a 15-8 run that extended the lead to 22 points and made the finish mostly just a matter of time.
When all was said and done, the Pacers came away with a dominating 117-89 win, led by All-Star hopeful Lance Stephenson (career-high 28 points on 10 for 17 shooting, four steals, four assists) and George (25 points on 8 for 17 shooting, 4 for 8 from 3-point land, seven rebounds). Hibbert played just 27 minutes, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and that one big block.
Video via frank den.
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