Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
INDIANAPOLIS - When last we saw the Knicks, they were running the Pacers out of Madison Square Garden with a late torrent of points.
But that was Tuesday, a long, long basketball time ago, and when they returned to action Saturday night for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, they looked out of sorts and out of answers and now they are almost out of time.
It was a tough, hard slog from the start at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but after an offensively challenged first half for both teams, the Pacers got their act together in the second. The Knicks did not, and lost, 82-71.
The Knicks expressed extreme disappointment with how they performed on offense and in rebounding, which put them in line with the rest of us.
"Defensively, we were there," Carmelo Anthony said. "But offensively, we weren't."
Center Tyson Chandler lamented that the Knicks resorted to "a lot of one-on-one basketball." He also said they did not follow the game plan against Pacers center Roy Hibbert, which was to try and trap him; instead, he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds -- eight offensive.
Perhaps most damning was Chandler accusing unnamed teammates of not doing all they could on the boards.
"We need five guys rebounding the ball; right now we don't have that," he said. "We've got one or two guys down there battling and guys watching. We have to get in there and help."
Overall, it smelled a lot like Game 1, when coach Mike Woodson accused the Knicks of being outhustled and outworked by the Pacers. But it was the offense that was most troubling.
"We can't beat anybody scoring 71 points," Anthony said.
The Pacers are inconsistent enough offensively that this still could be a long series, but the Knicks must find a way to minimize Indiana's edge on the boards and uncover reliable sources of offense other than Anthony, whom the Pacers roughed up throughout Game 3.
Anthony was 6-for-16 from the field with 21 points and four turnovers. Smith was 4-for-12 with nine points.
Raymond Felton, outstanding throughout the postseason, had only six points and shot 1-for-8 in his first game after spraining his left ankle.
Should be an interesting break until Game 4 on Tuesday as Woodson searches for answers to the Knicks' problems.
If they win that game, the Knicks will be back in control, with the series reduced to a best-of-three, two of them scheduled for Madison Square Garden.
At least the teams mostly have played nicely with one another - a contrast to the other conference semifinal between the Heat and the battling Bulls. But the Knicks' frustration seems to be mounting.
If the Knicks are to advance, they likely will need Smith to find his shooting touch, or have someone else volunteer for the job of scoring to complement Anthony.
Saturday night, they looked dangerously limited and the Pacers and their fans clearly smelled blood.
By the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, it was a full-fledged blowout and the Pacers, who had looked so hapless in allowing a 30-2 Knicks run in Game 2, suddenly looked like a team bound for bigger things.
"I'm just concerned about our pace and how we're flowing into things," Woodson said. "We just looked slow." He said he would "go back to the drawing board" Sunday.
That's a good idea, because if things don't change by Tuesday, it could be too late.
"It'll be different come Game 4," Anthony promised. "We'll make our adjustments. I'll make my adjustments, and we'll go from there."