A late rally by the Knicks downed the Pacers, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, with several contributors involved.
The New York Knicks (17-17) defeated the Indiana Pacers (15-17) by a final score of 110-107. For the Knicks, Julius Randle finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds while R.J. Barrett finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, and four made threes. For the Pacers, Justin Holiday finished with 13 points, while Myles Turner finished with 11 points and four rebounds. A flustered Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and five turnovers.
There was a palpable buzz from Knicks fans heading into this game; not only were we facing a rival in the Pacers, but the Knicks had a chance to make it to .500, something they haven’t achieved this far in the season since 2012–13 season. After two early regular-season matchups, the Pacers-Knicks matchup lost a bit of luster after the Victor Oladipo trade, but a good test nonetheless.
The Knicks got off to a slow start, partially because Randle was looking to create and get others active rather than himself. The Pacers got an early push thanks to Holiday and Doug McDermott’s outside shooting. It wasn’t a handful of defensive miscues from the Knicks but good shot-making by the Pacers.
The Knicks were playing sluggish on both ends, which lead to a 16-point hole. Taj Gibson suffered an ankle injury, and the Knicks seemed to be on the verge of a blowout. Then, the energy changed for New York. Tom Thibodeau went to the Immanuel Quickley–Frank Ntilikina backcourt to great results. Both Quickley and Ntilikina were able to work well off Randle, with Ntilikina getting some nice looks from beyond the arc.
Then, the Knicks went off to close the half. Barrett knocked down back-to-back threes, Randle got a give-and-go straight to the basket for an easy dunk, and Rose made a long three to give the Knicks a three-point lead heading into the half. From there, it felt like New York had all the momentum going into the second half.
But those Knicks showed up again. The dreaded “Third Quarter Knicks” came out and couldn’t do anything. Not only did the Knicks go back into a slow, plodding offensive style, but neither Barrett nor Randle appeared to be aggressive, which brought the Knicks’ offense to a standstill. Indiana got back into the game by using New York’s slow possessions to get their offensive rhythm going.
I loved the fourth quarter; we’re going to talk about it more in the game notes.
- The Pacers played well, but ultimately the lack of an actual creator hurt them. With no Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana relied on Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumner to mixed results. T.J. McConnell played nearly the entire game (46 minutes) and finished with 12 assists; still, I never truly feared their offense, even as Sabonis and Turner got going.
- Taj Gibson got hurt with a sprained left ankle, per the team. As a result, Nerlens Noel saw 41 minutes. As the Knicks head to Detroit tomorrow, I would like to see a bit more from Obi Toppin (six minutes tonight) and Kevin Knox (two minutes), just to ease the starters’ burden.
- Frank Ntilkina should remain in the rotation. The stat line doesn’t jump out at you (five points, two assists). What he does is his comfort as a shooter, especially that good three, and his defense. If he’s playing good-to-great defense AND hitting the three when open, then you play him alongside Quickley and go from there. Also, Frank had a great steal at the end to seal it for the Knicks, too.
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 28, 2021
- Derrick Rose was good (17 points, 11 assists) and showed what the Knicks need—a driver. The three-ball to R.J. Barrett in the second quarter run stands out and continues to stand out for me, as Rose got to the middle of the floor, found an open shooter, and a positive result followed. Unfortunately, Payton doesn’t offer that dynamism when attacking the opponent’s defense. You can sell me on Rose as the starter with Quickley and Ntilikina backing him up for now.
- I’m ending it with R.J. Barrett. Two-parter. 24 points, seven assists, and four made threes. We got all of the glimpses in this game—Barrett as a catch-and-shoot option looked good, getting into a solid rhythm each time. As a creator, Barrett was impressive in the third quarter, shuffling into the lane and getting some good looks. They didn’t result in baskets, but the ability to come off the screen and make proper reads is underutilized in Barrett’s game.
- Then, in the final minutes of the game, Barrett got an excellent kick to Randle for a three and got an impressive finish at the rim for the bucket and foul. Seeing Rose give Barrett the ball and allow him to do his thing was great because he was in the midst of a great game and Rose recognized that. I want R.J. to be a bit more aggressive when he gets to the lane (he should be attacking these guys with a bit more gusto, but I understand it since Turner blocked his shot earlier in the half), but a 20-year-old wing is getting late-game reps for the Knicks, and I want to see more of it.
RJ getting MVP chants in The Garden while taking a game over in the 4th quarter literally gave me chills pic.twitter.com/t3auya3OWU
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 28, 2021
The Knicks travel to the Little Ceasars Arena to face the Detroit Pistons tomorrow. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.