INDIANAPOLIS — The Knicks must have used up all their energy in their comeback win in Milwaukee on Friday night, because they had little left Saturday night.
Looking like a team on fumes for most of the game, the Knicks were outworked by Indiana, fell behind by 29 points and suffered a 123-109 loss to the Pacers.
“They had more energy than we did,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They beat us to the ball. They outplayed us.”
It was the seventh loss in the last eight games and 10th in the last 13 for the Knicks (17-20).
After making the surprise move of playing Ron Baker for the entire fourth quarter in the win in Milwaukee, Hornacek returned to his regular rotation, but his regulars couldn’t do much on either end Saturday night.
By the time he turned to Baker, the Knicks were down by 26 points heading to the fourth quarter. They erased an 18-point second-quarter hole and 13-point fourth-quarter deficit in Milwaukee, but this deficit was too big to overcome.
They got within 10 with a makeshift lineup late, but the Pacers were in control from the second quarter on.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy,” Brandon Jennings said. “They took it to us from the beginning. They took us out of our stuff. They were really into us the whole game. So it was tough.”
The Knicks can’t continue to dig huge first-half holes if they’re serious about being a playoff team. They also can’t continue to think playing defense is optional.
The Pacers (20-18) finished nearly 18 points above their season average and beat the Knicks 24-4 in second-chance points.
“To sum up the night, it was defense once again,” Derrick Rose said. “They got whatever they wanted. It felt like there wasn’t any trust there.”
Jennings scored 17 points, all in the fourth quarter, but was ejected with 21.3 seconds left after getting into a skirmish with Joe Young. The two still were jawing and pointing at each other before leaving the court.
Jennings wants Young to play the next time the Knicks and Pacers meet in two weeks.
“I was trying to get the ball in bounds and we got tangled up,” Jennings said. “I kind of pushed him off me. He kind of waved his hand down and he was looking me up and down. So I didn’t take that too kindly.
“I hope he does get another chance next time we play them. It could be very interesting.”
Carmelo Anthony also scored 17 points but he and Rose didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Kristaps Porzingis had 16 and Rose 14.
Paul George and Jeff Teague each scored 19 points for Indiana. Thaddeus Young had 16 points and nine rebounds and Myles Turner added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Just as in Milwaukee, things took a nasty turn for the Knicks in the second quarter. They were down 18 in the second against the Bucks and they let the Pacers take a 60-40 lead in the final minute of the first half Saturday night. It was the usual combination of ineffective offense, porous defense and lack of hustle.
The Knicks shot 4-for-19 and scored 14 points in the second quarter. The Pacers had nearly as many second-chance points in the quarter as the Knicks had points. Indiana converted five offensive rebounds into 11 points. The Knicks had zero second-chance points in the first half.
After falling behind by 29 in the fourth quarter, the Knicks got within 110-99 when Jennings fed Mindaugas Kuzminskas for a dunk with 4:57 left. The Knicks scored six straight points to make it 118-108 but could get no closer.
“We just didn’t come out with enough energy, I guess,” Porzingis said. “It was really hard to stop them early on. Then, obviously, once you’re down so much, it’s kind of like playing uphill. You’re giving your all, but it’s tough to get back in the game.”