INDIANAPOLIS – A gold home is still a good one for the Pacers-especially the team’s resident big man.
With Roy Hibbert leading the way with his scoring and defense, the Pacers took a 2-1 series lead on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in front of the first “Gold Swagger” crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
As the crowd donned the gold shirts, Hibbert scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as Indiana beat New York 82-71 in Game 3 to grab a 2-1 series lead.
“I wanted to be around the rim, creating extra possessions,” said Hibbert of his effort Saturday night in front of a sold out, gold clad 18,165. “I work everyday on my hooks and tonight they were falling.”
Thanks to his decent accuracy-9-of-18 from the field-the Pacers have a chance to grab control of the series on Tuesday night when the host the Knicks in Game Four at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Hibbert and David West led the way with 12 rebounds as the Pacers dominated the glass with a 53-40 advantage-including an 18-10 advantage on the offensive glass.
“We knew they were going to be physical and we were just going to be aggressive defensively,” said forward Paul George, who had eight rebounds to go with his 14 points.
That ability to play well in the paint came in handy as neither team enjoyed a solid offensive night with the Pacers and the Knicks each shooting 35 percent from the field. Indiana, in fact, put up 33 three-point shots and hit just ten of them as each team struggled to find a solid offensive rhythm.
“The way the Knicks defense plays that’s what they are giving us,” said Vogel. “The defense dictates what shot we take.”
It also dictated the pace of the game for the first half which featured only spurts of offensive rhythm.
Despite the fact they shot just 31 percent for the half the Pacers led most of the first 24 minutes, thanks to nine first quarter points by George Hill and then seven by Hibbert in the second. The Pacers built as much as an eight point lead in that quarter but had it cut down to three at the half after a Kenyon Martin bucket with 2.9 seconds to go.
“We did a good job of crawling up in their space,” said West of the first half defense. “It made them a little indecisive in terms of their passes and the plays they wanted to make.”
Things picked up on both ends for the Pacers in the third quarter, a traditionally strong one for the team at home in the postseason. Hibbert was 3-of-4 from the floor the field with eight points in the quarter as the Pacers expanded the lead to as many as 12.
In the fourth, the Pacers shut the door. They held the Knicks to 25 percent shooting (4-of-16) and held leading scorer Carmelo Anthony to two points on free throws for an entire quarter, ending any hope for a New York comeback. Hibbert finished the half 5-of-6 from the field with 15 second half points, enjoying one of his best playoff nights as a professional.
“That’s the All-Star Roy,” said George of Hibbert’s effort Saturday night-which puts the Pacers a step closer to the Eastern Conference Finals.