11 Jan 2013 10:38 AM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Forward Paul George paced Indiana with 24 points. (Image Source: Brent Smith/Reuters)
Over the last month, the Indiana Pacers had allowed 100 points just once and held four of their previous five foes to 83 points or less heading into last night, including wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat. Make it five out of six, as the Knicks fell to the Pacers 81-76.
The Knicks knew points wouldn’t come easy, not against the Eastern Conference’s top-ranked defense. Throw in a one-game suspension to the top scorer in the East and it was no surprise that the ‘Bockers struggled to put the ball in the basket without Carmelo Anthony.
“I give the Pacers all the credit in the world for playing solid defense,” Tyson Chandler said. “We thought this was one game we could come in and steal, but I also know we’re very undermanned right now.”
The offense ran mostly through J.R. Smith, who scored a game-high 25 points but took 29 shots [made 10] to get there. Smith had his moments, but in the end the Pacers got the better of New York’s sixth-man. Without Melo on the court, Indiana’s defense was able to key on Smith and force him to get to 25 the hard way.
“It’s tough not having that huge crutch to lean on — No. 7,’’ Smith said of playing without Anthony. “We really beat ourselves. It’s tough when you’re missing shots to not have the one guy who can get the buckets for you.’’
As a team, the ‘Bockers shot just 34.8 percent from the floor and 20 percent [4/20] from three-point range. Of the nine Knicks to shoot the ball—Ronnie Brewer did not take a shot in eight minutes of action—eight made fewer than half their attempts. Chandler, the only other Knick to reach double digits with 12 points, was 5/10, well below his season shooting percentage of 68.6.
Bottom line, there were no easy shots, as New York’s offense couldn’t get going without their leading scorer and starting point guard. The Knicks are now 1-2 without both Anthony and Raymond Felton.
“All they had to do was score two or three times and to open up the game,” backup point guard Pablo Prigioni said. “On defense we were good. We made a big effort, but we needed more points. All of our offense has been around Carmelo and Raymond Felton.”
New York is 5-7 in the last 12 games and happily welcomes back Anthony for tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden.
Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of American. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.