Coming off back-to-back road losses and knowing a brutal stretch of the schedule awaits them, the Pacers desperately needed to take care of business on their home floor against the lowly New York Knicks.
They did just that on Tuesday night, handling the NBA's worst team at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 103-98.
It was as close to a "must-win" game as you will find in early March for Indiana (43-25). The Pacers remain in position to secure homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs (Tuesday's win maintained a two-game lead over Boston in the loss column for fourth place in the Eastern Conference), but their next eight games are all against teams that are at least 10 games over .500, and six of those eight contests are on the road.
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"Whenever you get a win it's a good thing," Pacers guard Cory Joseph said. "But we still didn't play our basketball today. We know we've just got to keep on playing together, playing hard."
Rookie forward Kevin Knox helped keep the Knicks (13-55) in front early, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter. Indiana tied the game at 27 on Aaron Holiday's jumper with 7.3 seconds left in the frame, but Emmanuel Mudiay answered with a baseline bucket on the other end to give the visitors a two-point lead heading through one.
The opening minutes of the second quarter featured four ties and four lead changes. But New York seized control by hitting three 3-pointers over an 11-0 run midway through the frame to take a 47-37 lead.
The Pacers answered, however, reeling off an 18-5 spurt of their own to take a 55-52 lead into halftime. The Blue & Gold's defense was superb down the stretch, holding the Knicks to just two field goals over the final five minutes of the half.
The hosts opened the game up shortly after halftime. Myles Turner knocked down a 3-pointer on Indiana's opening possession of the third quarter and Bojan Bogdanovic added two more treys shortly thereafter. Just two minutes and 20 seconds into the half, the Pacers had a 12-point lead.
They took that same advantage into the final frame, closing the third quarter with an 85-73 lead.
"The key to the offense was our great defense," Bogdanovic said about the crucial stretch. "I think in the first half we had less than five points on the fastbreak. In the third quarter, we started to play way better defense and then we got a couple shots and easy layups in transition."
The Knicks got within eight on Mudiay's jumper with 9:29 remaining, but the Blue & Gold responded with eight straight points, which looked to put the game away.
The Knicks made one last slow charge, chipping away at the deficit and eventually making it a 99-93 game on a pair of free throws by Mudiay with 2:17 to play.
The Pacers locked in defensively, forcing contested shots on the next two New York possessions, but couldn't convert on the other end. Knicks guard Damyean Dotson eventually drew a foul with 41.8 seconds left and converted both foul shots to make it a four-point game.
After a timeout, veteran point guard Darren Collison knocked down a step-back jumper with 24.2 seconds remaining — Indiana's first points since the 5:35 mark in the fourth quarter. Mudiay hit a quick triple on the other end, but Collison knocked down two free throws on the other end to preserve the victory.
"We missed some open shots in that fourth quarter," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. "But we were able to get the stops we needed to win this game."
Bogdanovic led all scorers with 24 points, going 9-for-16 from the field and 3-for-8 from 3-point range. Collison had 16 points and nine assists, while Turner added 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocks.
All five starters reached double figures for Indiana. Wesley Matthews tallied 14 points and Thaddeus Young stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
Domantas Sabonis added 10 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench in his second game back after missing five straight contests with a sprained ankle.
Mudiay led New York with 21 points, while Dotson added 18 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Knox finished with 16 points and DeAndre Jordan tallied 12 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists in the loss.
The Pacers will close out a brief homestand on Thursday night against Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and the Thunder before embarking on a four-game Western Conference road trip that begins on Saturday night in Denver.
Photo Credit: Jessica Hoffman
Inside the Numbers
Bogdanovic topped 20 points for the 27th time this season.
The Pacers forced the Knicks into 20 turnovers on the night, while only committing 10 giveaways themselves.
Indiana went 6-for-9 from 3-point range in the third quarter, but just 2-for-19 over the rest of the game.
New York outrebounded Indiana 49-41 and outscored the Pacers 18-10 in second-chance points.
By adding two blocks to his league-leading total, Turner now has 174 on the season, surpassing his previous career high of 172 set in the 2016-17 season.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We played two really good teams in Milwaukee and Philadelphia. We dropped those games and you're hearing all the comments from people about how we're playing and the stretch we have coming up. I just felt like 'Look, we're going to be okay, we know what the schedule is.' We have to play solid basketball for 48 minutes and enjoy doing it and not put so much pressure on yourself." -McMillan
"We just work not to panic. That’s the one thing I think we have to keep reiterating as this tough stretch comes up, we can't panic. We have to just lock in and do our best to win games." -Turner
"At this time of the season, we have to be prepared, whether it's a good or bad game and be fresh in your mind every time you go out there and play. We got this W tonight, we'll enjoy it until 12:00 and then get ready for the next game." -Joseph
"It's tough, but we understand what got us there. Right now, it's the turnovers that really got us...We just can't afford to give so many possessions away." -Knicks head coach David Fizdale
"We fought the whole game and made some good runs, they made a run, but we didn't give up. We fought back so I think overall we played a good game and fought real hard, they just made some plays late." -Knox
Stat of the Night
Tuesday's game was won over a 7:13 stretch spanning the end of the second and start of the third quarters. Over that span, the Pacers outscored the Knicks, 27-5.
- With Tuesday's win, the Pacers swept the season series with the Knicks for the third time in the last five seasons.
- Indiana has won six straight games overall against New York, including four in a row at The Fieldhouse.
- Reserve guard Tyreke Evans missed Tuesday's game due to personal reasons.
The Pacers welcome Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday, March 14 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »