I had just texted my friend, “They’re better than us. Doesn’t mean we can’t win, but it’s true.”
I had come to the acceptance the Knicks were going to lose the series. New York was trailing 64-62 towards the end of the third quarter after George Hill drained a three. The Pacers were up by two after being down by seven, just about seven minutes earlier. Carmelo Anthony misses a three, David West grabs the rebound and Indiana heads up court.
A lead that felt like it should have been more at halftime completely disappeared and I had gone into full-blown panic mode. As all of this is happening…
First instinct – When did the Pacers hired Ben Howland?
Second instinct – I’m not really sure what the hell is going on here, but Frank Vogel is a really good coach and there has to be a reason for it.
New York was faltering, there didn’t seem like a logical reason to stop the flow of the game.
For an explanation from Vogel’s perspective, the only reasoning I could come up with was the Pacers’ two previous side out of bounds plays resulted in two dunks — a post up for Davis West, who hit a cutting Lance Stephenson for a dunk, plus a gorgeous lob to Paul George directly from the inbounds. Indiana’s head coach was confident in his ability to out scheme Mike Woodson after a timeout.
As weird as the timeout decision was, what surprised me even more was a four-five combination of David West and Jeff Pendergraph.
After the game, I went to see if the lineup of West, Pendergraph, Paul George, Lance Stephenson and George Hill had any track record. According to NBA.com, that group of five, in 26 minutes of regular season play, had 144 ORtg and a 80.7 DRtg. The small sample size off success didn’t carry over and off the Knicks went.
Carmelo Anthony immediately finished at the rim twice in a row and next thing I knew he was flinging shots left and right that were going through the orange circular object, instead of just being in the vicinity.
Other important developments occurred like the continued positive play of Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert making an impact I couldn’t even dream of him having, Kenyon Martin finishing with his left hand, consistently kind of becoming a thing, and J.R. Smith showing some strides towards being a basketball player again, but none were more important than Melo.
The Knicks’ LeBron James unanimous MVP stealing star made an appearance in the playoffs for the longest stretch yet.
Will Anthony go back to his brick shooting ways or was this the beginning of a binge scoring streak is a question we do not yet know the answer to.
Much like the J.R. Smith elbow “changing” the Boston series, if Melo gets hot this Vogel timeout will be remembered as a momentum altering decision.
I don’t believe that is fair, just like I didn’t believe the Jason Terry incident told the story of what happened verses the Celtics.
I do believe those two Melo buckets against Indiana jump started his Game Two and was a big reason New York evened up the series at one. Momentum can only go so far and from one game to the next is not something I believe in.
Vogel miscalculated either trusting the small sample size of numbers from the regular season or his instinct of playing the group was wrong. It jump-started the Knicks to one win and nothing more.