INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers finally figured it out.
When given the chance to take command of a playoff series, they can’t give it back. On Tuesday night, they didn’t.
George Hill scored 26 points and Paul George had 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, leading the Pacers past the New York Knicks, 93-82 and to within one win of their first conference finals appearance since 2004.
“We wanted it,” George said. “For us to come out with that edge, still, after being up 2-1 and being on our floor for Game 4, for us to be up and ready and have an edge to play, it just speaks to how focused we are right now.”
It was a far cry from what Indiana experienced a week ago in New York. Or last year at home against Miami.
Last week, the Knicks rallied from a Game 1 loss, using a 30-2 run to blow out Indiana at Madison Square Garden and even the series.
A year ago, the Pacers held a 2-1 lead over Miami but gave away Game 4 and never won again. Miami went on to win the NBA crown.
So the Pacers went into Tuesday night determined not let it happen again, certainly not with former stars Reggie Miller and Rik Smits in the house watching their old team hand it to their old rivals.
“I just think that our focus has been better than it was,” Indiana’s David West said. “We might have surprised ourselves going in there and getting Game 1. Naturally, we may have had a little letdown, but we talked about maintaining our home court and our focus in these two games and we were able to accomplish that. Our next goal is to compete hard with an opportunity for a close-out game in a tough environment.”
The Pacers were strong defensively again, had another big rebounding advantage (54-36) and never really let the Knicks challenge them in the second half. They can wrap up the series Thursday night in New York.
Desperate New York tried everything to change the script. Nothing worked.
Kenyon Martin played 29 minutes and J.R. Smith logged 31½ despite missing practice Sunday and Monday because they were ill. Guard Iman Shumpert started even with a sore and swollen left knee that had the Knicks so worried they brought an orthopedic doctor to Indy to examine it Tuesday. The doctor determined there was no structural damage.
Amare Stoudemire was called for four fouls in 11-plus minutes in his second game back since March 7 and had only four points and four rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony finished with 24 points before fouling out with 2 minutes left in the game.