Knicks vs. Pacers was a defensive slugfest

Photo Credit: AP Photo/R Brent Smith

“Defense wins championships,” is the adage used by many basketball aficionados. Throughout the years, the Eastern Conference was always known for its hard-nosed, defensive style of play while the Western Conference was known for its offensive style of run-and-gun basketball. Tonight, the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers played old school Eastern Conference basketball.

Even though the rivalry isn’t as fierce as years past when Patrick Ewing and Reggie Miller were in their prime in the 90s, both the Knicks and the Pacers slugged it out in an ugly game of basketball. The game was close throughout, but the Pacers were the more resilient team. Led by Victor Oladipo, the Pacers defeated the Knicks 110-99 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers to victory

Oladipo had a very efficient game. He scored 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. In addition to his efficient scoring production, he grabbed eight boards, dished out seven assists, and accumulated five steals in the game. On two of his five steals, he stripped Tim Hardaway Jr. which isn’t surprising since Oladipo stripped Hardaway Jr. twice in the last meeting between the two guards.

Besides Oladipo turning the art of stripping Hardaway Jr. into a pastime for the Pacers, he made life difficult for whoever he was guarding. Overall, the Pacers made life difficult for the Knicks to score buckets. With 4:19 left in the fourth quarter, Kevin Knox nailed a three to bring the Knicks within striking distance, 91-88. Afterward, the Pacers played lockdown defense and shut the door on a possible Knicks comeback.

Pacers defense put the clamps on the Knicks offense

On the next two Knicks possessions, Thaddeus Young was disruptive on defense. The first victim was Noah Vonleh. Young played volleyball with Vonleh’s shot and spiked the ball off the glass. Oladipo was able to grab the rebound off Vonleh’s blocked shot and fed Bojan Bogdanovic for the slam. On the next possession, the victim was Enes Kanter. Kanter had the ball in the post and tried to make a move until Young double teamed him and stole the ball. Young’s defensive prowess helped the Pacers to increase their lead to seven, 95-88.

Later, Myles Turner put the Knicks to rest when Oladipo found him open for three at the top of the key. Turner knocked down the big jumper to elevate the Pacers lead to eleven, 103-92, with 57.3 seconds remaining. On this play, there was confusion between Luke Kornet and Emmanuel Mudiay on the Turner-Oladipo pick-and-roll. Both Mudiay and Kornet followed Oladipo to the basket while Turner popped open at the 3-point line. In the end, it was an easy play for Oladipo to make to seal the game for the Pacers.

Lack of bench production destroyed the Knicks

Despite losing, the Knicks were solid against the Pacers. If anything, the only major flaw that was present for the Knicks was the lack of bench production. Currently, the Knicks are second in the NBA in bench points (47.7 points per game), but tonight, the Knicks bench could only manage to score 20 points. The hottest player off the bench was Courtney Lee, who only scored 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting.

Knicks starters picked up the slack in loss

The bench couldn’t live up to their potential, but the starters performed well. Kanter proved to be a nuisance whenever he stepped foot on the court. He finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Also, the performances of Knox and Mudiay continue to be encouraging. Knox finished with 15 points, and Mudiay finished with 18 points and 6 assists. As for the Knicks leading scorer, Hardaway Jr. continues to struggle to find his form on the court. He scored 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting, and he only went to the line three times.

Luckily, the Knicks will have a chance to redeem themselves on Monday night when the mediocre Phoenix Suns visit Madison Square Garden.

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