It was too little too late for the Knicks at home in their first game back from the All-Star break, losing by eight to the Pacers.
The New York Knicks’ (17-39) first game back from the All-Star break had some bright spots, but ultimately showed more of the same, with a 106-98 home loss to the Indiana Pacers (33-23).
Before the game, interim head coach Mike Miller spoke highly of the break and how necessary it was for the team: “It was at a good time for everybody, mentally, physically, to have a chance to get away a little bit,” per Peter Botte in the New York Post. He went on to say that it was time to go into things full force, adding that there was no way to ease your way into it.
The Knicks came out in the first quarter with high energy and an elite defensive performance, holding the Pacers to just 15 points in the first frame. New York showed positive signs on both sides of the ball in the first, but that may be due to the fact that the Pacers couldn’t hit the broad sign of a barn in the first organized ball game post–All-Star break.
Things started to crumble in the second quarter, however, as the Pacers put up 36 in the second period, including seven points from former Knick Doug McDermott. The Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls remained hot for the rest of the contest. New York went into the half only down seven, with signs of life still at large.
The third quarter was a total collapse for New York, as the Pacers began with a 6-0 run. Extending from the second to the third quarter, the Pacers went on a 20-5 run and were able to expand the deficit as much as 22 points in the second half. The Knicks ended the third quarter with a 7-0 run, the start of a comeback attempt that ultimately came up short.
The fourth quarter included some interesting lineup choices from Miller (more on these later) for better and worse. The Knicks played their best offensive quarter of the game and were able to go on another seven-point run that cut the deficit to 91-85 with six minutes remaining. It looked as if the Knicks were going to make a push to win their return game.
Unfortunately, the Pacers were able to answer with a run of their own. Much of the fourth quarter stayed in a sort of basketball purgatory: the score bounced from anywhere between six and 12 points repeatedly for the last six minutes, with the Knicks never being able to hit the shot to get over the hump. They were able to cut it to four with just 23 seconds left, but it was too little too late. The Pacers made their free throws and put the game away.
- R.J. Barrett not only had some highlight plays but also led the team in shots, which was a silver lining to me. He was aggressive on both sides of the ball and looked to take over late in the game, which was nice to see from the rookie.
RJ BARRETT IS IN HIS BAG pic.twitter.com/qcFWTSQtWb
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 22, 2020
- Julius Randle really struggled tonight and looked bad on both sides of the ball. He finished with seven points off two dunks and was only 2-of-9 from the field but at least shot last in the second half.
- Bobby Portis led the team in scoring with 19 but was completely overmatched defensively and was consistently targeted and picked on on that side of the ball.
- Frank Ntilikina was the brightest take away from the game. He led the team with 32 minutes played on Friday starting in place for the injured Elfrid Payton. He finished with 14 points including 2-for-4 from deep and looked dapper in a headband.
- The Pacers only shot only 28% from deep, compared to the Knicks’ 44%, which helped keep the game close.
- Domantas Sabonis looked every bit an All-Star tonight in his first game since making the team. He finished with a 24-13 game for Indiana and T.J. Warren led all scorers with 27.
- There were some very interesting lineup choices from Miller tonight. There was an awful lot of Bobby Portis who earned that time with his scoring. Minutes with Bobby Portis and Dennis Smith Jr. were particularly frustrating to watch at times. New Knicks forward Maurice Harkless, who came out against a potential buyout today, getting some run at the three alongside of Randle at the four was another perplexing choice. A positive sign was seeing Barrett and Ntilikina together in crunch time. They played well together and both looked unafraid of the moment.
The Knicks have another short break following this game, with three days off until they travel to Houston to play the center-less Rockets at 6:00 p.m. ET.