I thought they could do it but didn't expect they would. But game one is usually the best time to steal a game and the Pacers did it against the Knicks tonight with a stellar 102-95 victory in which they led by as much as 16 points.
The Pacers are solid at home but I wouldn't coun't the Knicks out just yet. Carmelo was roughed up and missed a lot of shots, as did JR Smith. Only Raymond Felton was effective, using the pick and roll to put up 18 points on 8-12 shooting. Carmelo finished with 27 but on 10-28 shots, and JR had 17 but was 4-15. These are numbers the Pacers will live with any day.
The Pacers shot well at 48.7%, which is a rarity for them on the road. They outrebounded the Knicks 44-30 and had 21 assists from 37 field goals. The 16 turnovers was a problem and they'll need to clean that up.
David West led the way, as he usually does, with 20 points on an efficient 8-15 night. Paul George had 19 but struggled from the field, connecting on only 5 of 14 shots — but I'll take it if he continues to smother Carmelo like he did tonight. PG24 ordinarily plays better offensively from home anyway.
Roy Hibbert was a beast and probably the player of the game for defending the rim with passion tonight. He had 14 points on 6-9 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks. Lance Stephenson was also huge playing in his home town and in an arena where he had plenty of big games, recording his first playoff career double-double with 11 and 13. This kid is playing unbelievable right now and he's doing it with a positive swagger.
The Pacers usually onyl need one guy off the bench to do well, and tonight it was DJ Augustin, who had 16 points including 4-5 from three-point range. It's not going to happen often, but DJ hits his shots the Pacers' bench becomes much less weaker.
Vogel played a really tight rotation today with only four guys off the bench and no reserve playing more than 13 minutes. Sam Young was awful, turning over the ball 3 times and 6 minutes, and Iam Mahinmi grabbed a single rebound in 9 minutes of play. Jeff Pendergraph didn't get any playing time but that might change if Amare Stoudemire returns in game 3 as planned.
Overall, a solid win that shows the Pacers might match up better against the Knicks than originally anticipated. You can be sure that the Knicks will come out with a lot of aggression in game two on Tuesday, and if the Pacers can match that intensity they could go home with a 2-0 series lead. The offense comes and goes, but if the Pacers take care of business on the defensive end they will be hard to beat on most nights.