Joe Robbins | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – Returning home to face the worst team in the NBA, the Pacers battled through some uncomfortable stretches on Tuesday in winning their 43rd game of the season.
Indiana overcome a double-digit first-half deficit and a 5-minute field goal drought in the final quarter to beat the Knicks, 103-98.
Despite seeing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter nearly wilt away, the Pacers (43-25) held on for the much-needed victory.
“We did get the win and we’ll take that,” Nate McMillan said after sweeping the season series over the Knicks (13-55). “A win is always a win, no matter how you get it. We missed some open shots in that fourth quarter. But we were able to get the stops we needed to win this game.”
Bojan Bogdanovic led Indiana with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, as all 5 Indiana starters scored in double figures.
Off the bench, Domantas Sabonis scored 10 points (4-of-12 shooting) and grabbed 7 rebounds in his second game back from an injured ankle.
Poor perimeter shooting early in Tuesday’s contest led to the Pacers falling behind by 10 points to the Knicks.
But a 27-8 run by the Pacers late in the first half, and spilling into the third quarter, gave Indiana what looked to be a cozy lead.
After scoring a season-low 30 second half points in Sunday’s loss to the 76ers, the Pacers did not have to reach a very high bar to better that effort on Tuesday. They reached that bar by the end of the third quarter with 30 points in that period alone.
The second half wasn’t without some tense moments though as Indiana’s 10 straight misses and just 18 total points in the final quarter helped the Knicks cut the lead to 3 points, before Darren Collison iced the game in the final minute.
That preserved a vital win for the Pacers before the schedule really toughens up.
“We played two really good teams in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, we dropped those games and you’re hearing all the comments from people about how we’re playing and the stretch we have coming up,” McMillan acknowledged after the victory.
“I just felt like, ‘Look, we’re going to be okay, we know what the schedule is.’ We have to play solid basketball for 48 minutes and enjoy doing it and not put so much pressure on yourself. Just focus on what we didn’t do in our last game and try to do it better in the next game.”
The Pacers have won 6 straight games over the Knicks.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
–Pacers Avoid The Disaster: Down 10 points in the second quarter on Tuesday, to the worst team in the NBA, some murmurs were running through Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But the Pacers responded with a 27-8 run and held on from there for a victory over the lowly Knicks. With 12 of the next 13 games against teams currently in the playoffs, the Pacers could not afford to lose this one. Stops on the defensive end turned into some in-rhythm three pointers for the Pacers. Indiana went 6-of-9 from behind the arc in the third quarter, after going 2-of-13 from three in the first half. A ‘must-win’ label was attributed to this game when talking about the goal of securing homecourt in Round One and in looking at the schedule on the horizon. It’s quite possible the Pacers won’t be favored in more than 3 or 4 games the rest of the season.
–Tense Fourth Quarter Moments: Nearing the mid-way point of Tuesday’s 4th quarter, this game did not look at all like it was going to have game situations arise in the final minutes. But it did. The Pacers struggled mightily to put the Knicks away. Indiana led 97-81 with 7 minutes to play, before the Knicks went on a furious rally. A Darren Collison jump shot was the lone field goal in the final 5 minutes as New York cut the lead all the way down to 3 points. It took Collison’s headiness to finish this one off in a game that really had no business being so close late, until the Pacers missed 10 straight shots from the field.
–Tyreke Evans Misses Another Game: Despite practicing on Monday, after sitting out Sunday’s game in Philly with upper respiratory issues, Tyreke Evans still missed Tuesday night’s game. Evans left the arena about 2 hours before tipoff on Tuesday, just before Nate McMillan said ‘personal’ reasons were why Evans would be inactive. Putting the ‘personal’ reasons label aside for Tyreke Evans missing his 11th game of the season, this signing has not worked out for the Pacers. Whether it’s the early-season tardiness, the knee/back issues or the various illnesses, Evans hasn’t proven to be reliable from an availability standpoint or a consistent productivity standpoint. There was always a question upon signing Evans on his dependability. He entered this season having missed 129 games over the past 3 seasons. When the Pacers have needed him the most—with Victor Oladipo’s injuries stressing that importance—Evans has not given Indiana enough. Evans is shooting a career-low 38.2 percent from the floor and has never looked like a fit into the Pacers’ system/culture.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Thunder (Thursday, 3/14)
-at Nuggets (Saturday, 3/16)
-at Trailblazers (Monday, 3/18)
-at Clippers (Tuesday, 3/19)
-at Warriors (Thursday, 3/21)
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