With Reggie Miller sitting along the baseline calling color commentary for TNT, Thursday night’s contest between the Pacers and Knicks had fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse reliving the old 1990’s playoff rivalries.
What fans probably weren’t expecting however was a defensive slugfest that you would have seen from either of those teams 20 years ago, with Indiana (22-14) collecting their ninth straight victory at home with a 81-77 victory over the Knicks (23-12).
“That’s eastern conference basketball for you,” said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel with a smile. “That was one heck of a win for our guys, really led by Paul George who is just blossoming in front of our eyes with special performance, after special performance, after special performance.”
George led the Pacers in virtually most categories on Thursday, scoring 24 points, collecting 11 rebounds, taking a career-high 6 steals, and dishing out 5 assists in an another All-Star quality effort. The Pacers rising superstar points the finger of his success, and the team’s overall, on a defensive effort that kept the Knicks to their lowest scoring total of the season.
“We take pride in our defense,” said George. “I think every guy one through five, and even our second-unit, don’t want guys scoring on us. We take pride in helping one another out, and anytime you have that, your defense is going to be clicking.”
Down 62-58, the Pacers defense took over the game in the fourth quarter, causing New York to miss their first eleven shots and held the Knicks to just three points in the final six-and-a-half minutes of the contest. This allowed the opportunity for the Pacers to seize control of the game, and did with a solid performance from center Ian Mahinmi’s 13 points and six rebounds.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, said Mahinmi. “I have to give all the credit to my teammates. They really find me at the right spot, and I was able to knock it down tonight.”
With the victory the Pacers have won 12 of their last 15 games, with the two biggest of them coming against the number-one seed Miami Heat and New York Knicks in back-to-back games. The Pacers play the struggling Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and they know after these big victories they can’t afford a trap game.
“We can’t take them lightly,” said George. “Those two wins don’t mean nothing if we don’t play well and come out ready for Charlotte.”