Pacers Rally Falls Short vs. Knicks
Al Jefferson and the Indiana Pacers nearly overcame a double-digit fourth quarter deficit against the New York Knicks on Monday night, but they were unable to execute down the stretch, falling 109-103 at home.
Big Al scored in double figures for the third straight game, putting in 13 on 5-of-8 shooting and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
The opening tip saw the Knicks take the initial lead, but an 8-0 Indiana run forced New York coach Jeff Hornacek to burn an early timeout. While the starters built a double-digit lead, both Paul George and Myles Turner were forced to sit with foul trouble and give way to the bench.
Big Al checked in for Turner with 6:45 to play in the first and got his first basket a minute later after Thaddeus Young hustled to save a ball going out bounds right to Al under the hoop for a layup.
With 2:21 left in the first, Al found himself a defensive mismatch with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony switched on to him. Realizing the opportunity to capitalize on his height advantage, the rest of the Pacers cleared out and worked on Anthony to flip in a short jumper.
The Pacers were helped by seven New York turnovers in the first, but the bench ultimately held strong, and Indiana led 34-22 after one.
The Knicks climbed back in the game by opening the second on a 7-1 run, but it was just the start of the damage inflicted in the quarter.
What was once a comfortable lead was erased as the Knicks used an 11-3 spurt to tie the game with 4:12 until the half. Al helped keep New York from running away, fighting for an offensive rebound and getting the tip-in, and hitting a two from above the free line after the tie. In all, the Knicks outscored Indiana 40-24 to take a 62-58 lead into the break.
The Knicks held a double-digit advantage for much of the third, despite missing six straight shots at one point. Despite shooting just 7-of-21 as a team in the third, a late 8-0 run cut the lead to 11 heading into the fourth.
New York lead by as many as 16 with 7:48 to play, but a 9-0 rally started by a Big Al jumper cut the deficit to seven with 5:52 to play. Indiana continued to chip away, and the lead was down to just five after a George fadeaway jumper with 3:38 to go.
On the other end of that play, George and Turner forced Anthony into a turnover and Turner converted a bank shot to bring the crowd to its feet and get to within three with 3:01 to play. Overall, it was a 17-2 run over six-plus minutes of game clock that cut the lead to one with 2:00 to play.
Anthony beat the shot clock buzzer to push the lead back to three, but Monta Ellis drew contact on the other end and sank both free throws on an injured ankle to get the Pacers back to within one.
After George tied the game at 103 with 40 seconds left, Anthony hit a baseline jumper to retake the lead. With a chance to tie again with 16 seconds left, though, Turner fumbled a pass out of bounds, allowing the Knicks to seal the game with free throws.
“We have the energy, but it just wasn’t enough,” said Turner of the team’s comeback. “The second quarter really hurt us. We just need to lock in and get the job done.”
Similar themes carried over from the Pacers previous loss to the Utah Jazz. Indiana was again outscored on free throws, this time 31-20 and were only able to turn 15 Knicks turnovers into 16 points.
“We gotta be ready,” said George. “With the starting group, we gotta get off to a great start, and that second unit has to sustain it. We can’t have no drops at any point in the game.”
The Pacers go out on the road for one game to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. Tip off is at 8 p.m EST.