ESPN NEW YORK — For the New York Knicks, it was about playing harder, even if not really much better. Saving their season would be more about effort than execution. “Tonight it was just one of them days where you just got to leave it out there on the basketball court,” Carmelo Anthony said. Now they have to do it two more times. Anthony scored 28 points and the Knicks avoided elimination in the Eastern Conference semifinals with an 85-75 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 on Thursday night. Reserves J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland each had 13 points for the Knicks, who trail 3-2 and will need a victory Saturday in Indiana to force a seventh game back here Monday. They are trying to become the ninth NBA team to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series. “I was totally impressed because we met the challenge,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “I think as a coach you come into games like this and you want to see who’s going to step up and make plays, and I thought we did that tonight. We were the better team in terms of doing that.” Anthony, who didn’t make a basket in the fourth quarter of either game in Indiana, made a jumper midway through the fourth quarter after Indiana closed within four points. He followed with two free throws, Raymond Felton made a layup, and the Knicks were never in jeopardy again. Paul George had 23 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Pacers. They played without point guard George Hill because of a concussion and committed 19 turnovers. “We’ve just got to play more solid. There’s no other way to put it,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. George battled foul trouble and couldn’t contain Anthony quite as well as he had while the Pacers easily won the previous two games. Anthony made his first two shots as New York raced to a 7-0 lead in a game it never trailed. He finished only 12 of 28, but got plenty of bench help. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well but we made shots at the crucial time,” Anthony said. David West had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who were trying to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2004. “We didn’t play well. It was a bad game for us and we were still there,” George said. The winner will face the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in a series that will start Wednesday. New York didn’t really shake its scoring slump, shooting only 41 percent from the field, but put together a few runs during the game to open just enough space against a Pacers team that shot 36 percent and was a dismal 19 of 33 at the free throw line. They clearly missed Hill after learning about four hours before the game they would be without him. Vogel said Hill was hurt after a collision with Knicks center Tyson Chandler during the first half of Indiana’s 93-82 victory on Tuesday. Hill finished the game and scored 26 points, but experienced some headaches and showed concussion symptoms since and wasn’t able to pass the league’s concussion tests in order to play Thursday night. The Knicks went back to their regular lineup, reinserting Pablo Prigioni, after going with a bigger group in Game 4 in a futile effort to match Indiana on the boards. The smaller group did a better job, getting outrebounded only 43-40. “We’re not going to go out without fighting,” Chandler said. The Knicks finally opened it up midway through the third quarter with a 12-4 run, started by Smith’s bank shot and featuring a 3-pointer and follow shot from Copeland, who got more playing time while Woodson gave little to veterans Amar’e Stoudemire and the slumping Jason Kidd, who missed his only shot and remains scoreless in the series. “Coaching is a feel. It’s not always what players want at the end of the day, it’s about winning,” Woodson said. “That’s all I’m in it for.” Anthony made a jumper and a 3-pointer on his first two shots, and Iman Shumpert followed with another jumper for a 7-0 start. Smith got a big ovation when he checked in, which grew much louder when he made his first shot, dribbling back behind the arc for a 3-pointer that made it 17-12 with 2:56 left in the opening quarter. Smith has endured a miserable stretch since elbowing Boston’s Jason Terry in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in the first round. Suspended for Game 4, he hasn’t relocated his shot since, hitting 28 percent in the first four games and has been criticized for not being focused after he was seen out a nightclub with singer Rihanna the night before Game 1 — a day game. He was only 4 of 11, but hit the jumper that started the Knicks’ run in the third quarter. “Still didn’t shoot the best but it always helps coming home and playing in front of these fans,” Smith said. “Hopefully the little bit of rhythm that I did get carries me over.” The Knicks extended their 19-15 lead after one to 32-23 on Copeland’s 3-pointer with 7:06 remaining in the second. The Pacers chipped away for most of the half but couldn’t take the large in part because of their sloppy free throw shooting, going 8 of 16 in the half that agonizingly wouldn’t end when both Chandler and the Pacers’ Sam Young committed fouls more than 30 feet from the basket in the final 2.4 seconds.
The Knicks are still alive. Huge, gritty win for the Knickerbockers in a win-or-go-home situation at the Garden last night to extend their season with an 85-75 win over the Pacers to cut the series lead to 3-2. Although the game was close last night, I do not think the Pacers can beat the Knicks without point guard George Hill, who missed last night’s game with a concussion. This is not old school NBA, where a guy with a concussion would tell the trainer that he was re-entering the game, and then enter the game and put up with a headache. In the new world of sports, you have to pass several rigorous tests from a team of medical doctors, before you are cleared to return to the court following a concussion. There is a chance that Hill does not play in game five, and although he hit some big shots early in this series, the Pacers are simply not the same team with D.J, Augustin acting as their floor general. Lost Without Hill. An interesting stat from the sidebar of the article above which highlights the Hill-less Pacers offensive struggles “The Pacers’ pick-and-roll ballhandlers shot 3 of 11 (27.3 percent) with four turnovers in Game 5 against the Knicks. The Pacers struggled on those plays without George Hill, who shot 50.0 percent as the pick-and-roll ballhandler in the first four games of the series.” The other problem with the Pacers is a total lack of depth, their starting five is solid, but if players start getting into foul trouble, their bench flat out stinks. If I’m the Knicks, I have Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith attack the hoop early and often in game six, draw fouls, and expose the Pacers lack of depth. If the Knicks can grit out another win in game six, the series swings back to Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks will win a game seven. Game six, in Indianapolis, decides this series.
NOTE: It was nice to see Iman Shumpert, who was arguably the Knicks second best player in the early portion of this series, looking like himself again last night after recovering from a bruised knee suffered in game three. Question for Knicks fans though, what is going on with Tyson Chandler? He looks like a shell of his former self in this series, this is not the warrior we watched all season long, and I think that we will find out that he is much more injured than he is letting on following the season. It’s not just Hibbert frustrating him, although that plays a part, you can see Chandler is hurting.