I was worried about this game even though the Knicks were without their top scorer, Carmelo Anthony, who was serving a one-game suspension for trying to "talk" to Kevin Garnett after the Knicks lost to the Celtics. The Knicks still had JR Smith, and they still had Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak. On paper, it looked like bad matchups everywhere for Indiana.
But the Pacers buckled down once again and showed why they are currently the best defensive team in the league, holding the Knicks to a season low 76 points on 34.8% shooting, including 4-20 from three-point range (and two of those shots came in the final two minutes as the Knicks tried to make a comeback).
The Pacers only scored 81 points themselves, but they are the second lowest scoring team in the NBA (just ahead of the lowly Wizards), so it was nothing unusual. Paul George led the way (again) with 24 points and 11 rebounds, plus 5 assists and 6 HUGE steals. The unsung hero tonight was Ian Mahinmi, who finally started hitting some shots to finish with 13 points on 6-7 shooting to be the only other player in double digits for Indiana.
David West struggled again and is officially in a slump, but he battled hard and managed to not pick up a technical despite getting about a zillion bad calls against him. Roy Hibbert was in and out of the line up with back spasms, and George Hill played with bronchitis. When you also take into account the fact that the Pacers also didn't have their usual to scorer in Danny Granger, it's arguable that neither team really got a lucky break tonight with missing players.
The Pacers are now 22-14 and will be looking for their first four-game winning streak of the season when they take on the Bobcats in the final game of their four-game home stand. Remember, the Pacers have already lost against the Bobcats once, by a single point in the second game of the season. But that was when the Pacers were struggling and the Bobcats were playing relatively well. It will be interesting to see how much the Pacers have progressed and the Bobcats have regressed since then. If the Pacers are serious about challenging the Heat and the Knicks this season they have to put away the Bobcats in impressive fashion. A loss will represent a huge step back.