INDIANAPOLIS - J.R. Smith was back from his one-game benching and the Knicks were back at the site of their most devastating defeat last season. And they played as if it were the spring of 2013 all over again.
Carmelo Anthony needed help against the Pacers Thursday night but didn't get it. Tyson Chandler looked ill and wasn't himself for much of the game. Roy Hibbert denied another Anthony dunk. Paul George was too much to handle. Lance Stephenson, who had a big night when the Knicks were eliminated in Game 6 of last season's Eastern Conference semifinal series, had another strong performance.
The biggest difference in the Knicks' 117-89 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is that their season isn't over. But Anthony looked pretty disgusted during the game and sounded that way afterward.
"It was an embarrassing loss,'' he said. "It's a frustrating loss, man. We're on the road and I felt like we could have played a lot better, a lot harder, than we did. This was a big game, against a big-time team, and we didn't bring it.''
The Knicks (15-24) will try to end a two-game skid Friday night when they open a season-high eight-game homestand against the Clippers. But they won't have Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin; both left with sprained left ankles.
Early in the game, Anthony and the Knicks looked determined to prove they can play with the Pacers. He shot 6-for-8 in the first quarter and scored 18 of the Knicks' 31 points. But the Pacers (31-7) are not only the best team in the NBA but the best defensive squad, and they locked down on Anthony and the Knicks.
Anthony had only two baskets after that, scoring 28 points before sitting out the fourth quarter. The Knicks scored only 58 points in the last three quarters and never got the deficit under 15 in the second half.
"We were awful after getting off to such a good start,'' Mike Woodson said. "It was a total team disaster after a while.''
With Anthony being smothered, he needed his teammates to pick up some of the scoring, but it didn't happen. "I don't want to feel like if I'm not scoring the basketball that we don't have a chance of even being in the game,'' he said.
Chandler had 13 points and nine rebounds in his second game after being bedridden with bronchitis. Smith, who was benched Tuesday in Charlotte, scored 12 in 28 minutes.
Stephenson led Indiana with 28 points, including some spectacular shots. In the fourth quarter, he was fouled by Smith, hit a tough reverse and gyrated in front of the Knicks' bench. His three-point play made it 107-79.
"You can do it when you're winning,'' Chandler said. "It's our job to keep him from doing that crap.''
The Knicks had numerous defensive breakdowns in the second quarter, allowed 18 points in the last 5:26 and trailed 63-48 at halftime. George (25 points) had 10 of Indiana's first 15 points of the third, and his three-pointer made it 78-56.
"They just hit us and we didn't respond,'' Woodson said, "and I didn't like that at all.''
Said Anthony: "They've been playing great throughout this season. There's no way I think and believe they're 30 points better than we are. I won't accept that.''