Knicks 85 Pacers 75 GAME 5 | MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
How it happened:
On Thursday night, the Knicks avoided an early exit from the postseason by topping Indiana 85-75 in front of the MSG crowd. With its back against the wall, New York shifted the series back to Indiana for a Game 6, trailing 3-2 in the semifinals series.
The dynamics of the elimination Game 5 changed drastically moments prior to tipoff. Media members and head coach Mike Woodson were alerted that Pacers starting point guard George Hill was unable to suit up due to a concussion suffered in the first quarter of Game 4.
Hill scored 26 points in Game 4 and was the lynchpin for Indiana’s offense. Pacers head coach Frank Vogel was forced to start D.J. Augustin in Hill’s place, which provided an advantage for a New York team on the brink of playoff termination.
Woodson also altered his starting unit, featuring Pablo Prigioni again in place of Kenyon Martin. The smaller lineup was highly effective this season and it shifted Carmelo Anthony back to the power forward spot where he was successful for most of the year.
Anthony book-ended a strong 28-point performance with a big bucket down the stretch to help answer the Pacers star Paul George. New York’s prolific scorer hit a fading 1-foot Dirk Nowitzki-esque jumper to push the advantage to the home team, 83-73 with 2:53 left in the contest.
A couple of minutes earlier, George nailed a 3-pointer as part of his 23-point night. On the opposite side of the floor, Anthony connected on a fadeaway prior to Raymond Felton finishing a fast break bucket. The Anthony jumper was his first points in the fourth quarter in two games.
The hard-nosed Pacers refused to let their guard down throughout the entire contest and the pivotal moment occurred in the third quarter. Augustin opened the period with a long ball to trim the Knicks lead to just two points while groans were heard from the home crowd.
Used sparingly in the playoffs, reserve forward Chris Copeland entered the game for Prigioni when he was whistled for his fourth foul. Copeland drained a 3-pointer and fought for an offensive putback board to propel New York on a crucial 9-4 run.
Woodson told the media he would utilize Copeland and the move paid off as the rookie tallied 13 points in the victory. Copeland’s quick trigger was a blessing for a Knicks team that has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the floor in this series.
New York set the tone from the jump by snatching an 11-4 lead in the first quarter while igniting the hungry Garden faithful.
While it wasn’t a pretty playoff game, it had all the physical play desired in an Eastern Conference battle. Lance Stephenson took a huge hit from Tyson Chandler, David West was hobbling all night, and Felton fell to the ground in the late stages.
For the Knicks, Smith bounced back by scoring 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds, recorded three seals, and dished out two assists. Iman Shumpert was in attack mode all game and finished with six boards in 26 minutes of action.
Knick of the Night:
Anthony’s 28 points and six boards were instrumental in New York’s victory tonight. However, Copeland was the offensive spark the Knicks desperately needed. Copeland scored 13 points in 19 minutes, hitting 4-of-6 shots from the floor and 3-of-4 behind the arc.
New York closed the gap on the boards and was only outrebounded 43-40. The Pacers shot 19-of-33 from the charity stripe and committed 19 turnovers. In another clean game from a turnover perspective, the Knicks coughed up the rock just 10 times in the victory.
New York will travel to Indiana tomorrow afternoon and square off against the Pacers on Saturday at 8 PM on ESPN. Indiana is 4-0 on its home floor in the playoffs but if the Knicks can secure a win, the series will move back to New York for a monumental Game 7 where the the winner earns a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.