INDIANAPOLIS — The Knicks were intent on avoiding a slow start Sunday.
Now to work on the finish.
The Knicks found themselves tied with the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, but after a frustrating offensive display, they lost to Indiana, 110-99, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Knicks committed six turnovers and missed 15 of 24 shots in the fourth quarter while watching Indiana slowly pull away for its seventh straight win.
The Knicks pulled even at 81 with 9:03 to play on a three-pointer by Courtney Lee, but Domantas Sabonis tipped in a missed shot and fed Thaddeus Young for a four-point lead. Former Knick Doug McDermott’s three-pointer made it 88-81.
The Knicks didn’t score for a span of 3:12 until Tim Hardaway Jr. dropped in a short jumper, but Emmanuel Mudiay followed with a pair of free throws, and it was a one-possession game again with 5:26 remaining.
The Pacers’ Victor Oladipo and the Knicks’ Kevin Knox each hit a three-pointer, leaving the Pacers with a 91-88 lead. Baskets by Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic then made it 95-88, and the Knicks never got closer than five again.
While the game still was close, Turner swatted a shot by Enes Kanter in the lane, then chased down Mudiay and forced him to miss a fast-break dunk attempt.
“They turned up the heat on us and really started getting after us,” coach David Fizdale said. “We started holding the ball and that really bit us. We had like four straight turnovers and then Emmanuel missed that dunk, so that combination of that stretch opened up the game for them.”
“I think defensively, they just amped it up a little bit,” Hardaway said. “But also, they made their shots in the fourth when we went zone. When you give this team leverage, you give them an opportunity to expand the lead, you’ve got to do whatever you can to stop it. We didn’t do that tonight.”
After falling behind by 21 and 22 points in the first two games of this road trip, the Knicks took a 7-2 lead in the opening minutes. But the reversal of early fortune didn’t last, and the Pacers led by as many as 10 in the second quarter.
The Knicks turned to a zone defense, a strategy that worked well in their comeback win over Charlotte, but the Pacers seemed far more prepared to handle it and easily moved the ball to get to the rim repeatedly.
Oladipo had 26 points and Turner added 24. Kanter led the Knicks with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Hardaway scored 19 and Mudiay had 18.
“It’s good to see us make the switch and take what we watched on film and what we burned our hands on a couple of games and made that adjustment to get better at that,” Fizdale said. “Obviously I would have liked to see us execute better down the stretch, but the fact that we were on the road against arguably one of the hottest teams in the league right now, last game of the trip, I felt like our young guys really came here to try to win it.”
The Knicks played shorthanded again, even as they got Trey Burke and Lance Thomas back — although Burke struggled through a 1-for-7 shooting night and Thomas never got into the game.
Allonzo Trier (strained right hamstring) was out. Mitchell Robinson suffered a sprained left ankle Friday and had his foot in a protective boot. It is his third ankle injury since preseason.
“We’re trying to figure it out,” Fizdale said. “But it’s just unfortunate he keeps coming down on guys’ feet. He jumps so dang high so when he lands the wrong way, that ankle just rolls. Hopefully we can figure something out to start helping this kid so he doesn’t have to keep dealing with this.”