The New York Knicks have had about as disappointing a start to the 2013-14 season as could be imagined. Heading into Wednesday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers with a 3-7 record, the Knicks have dealt with several injuries, lackluster performance at both ends, embarrassing highlights, the franchise's usual rash of rumors and questionable management decisions, and maybe some bad luck.
For much of Wednesday's game, the Knicks appeared to push those concerns aside against the top team in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony perservered through poor field-goal shooting for totals of 30 points and 18 rebounds, Beno Udrih logged 19 points and eight boards in his second start for the injured Raymond Felton, and the defense held the Pacers to an iffy offensive performance. With 9.2 seconds left in regulation, New York held an 89-86 lead and needed one more stop to ice the game.
Then everything went terribly wrong. After taking handoff after his own inbounds pass, Pacers star Paul George rose up for a long three-pointer over Iman Shumpert at the top of the key. It resulted in an airball, but referees whistled Shumpert for fouling George's elbow and altering the shot. George knocked down all three shots, Anthony failed to convert on a tough jumper on the Knicks' final possession, and the game headed to overtime. Naturally, George and Pacers dominated that period, cruising to a 103-96 win following the wild fourth-quarter finish.
It's an open question as to how much contact Shumpert actually made on the foul. After the jump, check out a screenshot of the play (via @cjzero) and decide for yourself.
The trouble here is that any sort of touch of the elbow affects a player's shot more than similar contact to any other part of the body. It seems fair to assume that George intended to make the shot, not airball intentionally to entice the referees to make an iffy foul call that would send the Madison Square Garden fans into a fury. Given the circumstances, we can guess that the contact changed the shot considerably.
The relative correctness of the call won't do much to console the Knicks, a team seemingly intent on being as dramatic as possible regardless of the final result. Tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the worst record in the Atlantic Division and heading out on a four-game road trip beginning with Saturday's game against the Washington Wizards, it's possible that things will only get tougher for one of the NBA's marquee franchises.
Yet, despite their struggles, it's possible that the biggest NBA story from this game involved the continued excellence of Paul George. A first-time All-Star and Most Improved Player last season, George has vaulted his game to a First Team All-NBA level with expanded offensive skills joining his customarily great defense. While George's free throws will be the story of Wednesday's game, he did much more, scoring nine of his 35 points (12-of-26 shooting) in overtime and also chipped in five boards, four assists, five steals, and two blocks. George may be the most complete player in the Eastern Conference not named LeBron James.
(Video via The Point Forward)
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