INDIANAPOLIS – Losing to the Knicks twice in one month is something no NBA team wants on their schedule.
The Pacers avoided that ugly mark with a 106-98 victory on Saturday night in New York.
After a sluggish first quarter, the Pacers (33-23) pulled ahead in the second and led the rest of the way for the road victory over the Knicks (17-39).
Unlike their earlier matchup this month, Indiana controlled the glass (50-to-40), which resulted in the victory in the first game back from the All-Star break.
“It’s going to be a big factor from here on out,” Nate McMillan said afterwards of his team’s rebound. “We emphasized that tonight. This (Knicks team) is the best offensive rebounding team in the league. Our team did a good job. We challenged the guards and the forwards all to get in there and help on the boards. Tonight, we dominated the boards 50 to 40. Only five offensive rebounds, and they are the top offensive rebounding team in the league. Job well done by our guys.”
T.J. Warren led Indiana with 27 points. Domantas Sabonis added 24 points and 13 rebounds.
With no more minutes restriction, Victor Oladipo had to leave late in the third quarter after back spasms flared up.
Indiana scored just 15 points in the first quarter on Friday.
But a 36-to-24 run in the second quarter gave the Pacers a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Leading by as many as 22, the Pacers did see their lead dwindle to two possession in the final quarter, but some key plays from Warren kept the Knicks from getting any closer.
The Pacers are now 2-1 on the season against the Knicks.
Three Things Learned
-MVP T.J. Warren: The question was posed during the All-Star break: Who was the Pacers MVP of the first 55 games of the year? While Domantas Sabonis earned the All-Star nod and has been tremendous this season, the honor has to go to T.J. Warren. Friday night was another example of that with Warren pouring in 27 points and 8 rebounds. The consistency of Warren’s scoring, on a winning team, is notable. But what he’s given this team on the other end of the floor has to be mentioned as well. As the Pacers suffered through that 6-game losing streak earlier this month, it came with Warren in street clothes, as he dealt with a concussion. Like Warren did in the win over the Bucks last Wednesday, he helped the Pacers stave off any late run from the Knicks on Friday.
-Oladipo Leaves With Back Spasms: Friday was supposed to be the first time that Victor Oladipo has been unleashed this season. But back spasms in the third quarter ended Oladipo’s night. After playing 7 games before the All-Star break (4 starts), Oladipo is now at the point where he no longer has a minutes restriction, bumping up his allotment on the court from 28 minutes to around 32-34 minutes. The Pacers will still keep Oladipo from playing in both games of a back-to-back (Indiana has 3 more this season). On Friday, Oladipo had 8 points in 25 minutes before leaving. He was 3-of-8 from the floor, 1-of-3 from three-point range, 1-of-2 from the foul line, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. Oladipo said afterwards he thought there was a chance he would play in Sunday’s road matchup with the Raptors.
-Getting The 6 Back: Nate McMillan’s big goal in coming back from the All-Star break is to get the 6 games back the Pacers lost earlier this month. Outside of Sunday’s road game with Toronto, Indiana does have some very winnable games early in this return from break. For the Pacers to get homecourt, they are going to need to probably win (at least) around 18-20 of their final 27 games. With the Heat losing on Thursday, the Pacers are now 2.5 games in back of the final homecourt spot. Make no mistake, that is the goal for Indiana in the final month and a half of the season, but the margin for error is small.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Raptors 2/23 (Sunday)
-Hornets 2/25 (Tuesday)
-Trailblazers 2/27 (Thursday)
-at Cavaliers 2/29 (Saturday)
-at Spurs 3/2 (Monday)