INDIANAPOLIS — The Knicks unveiled their brand-new point guard and young backcourt pairing. It showed some promise, but overall, the team didn’t have the speed or athleticism to keep up with Indiana.
That remains a glaring weakness and Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo exploited it, putting on a show and ruining Emmanuel Mudiay’s Knicks debut. Mudiay had 14 points and 10 assists in 29 minutes, but the Knicks lost to the Pacers, 121-113, on Sunday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Oladipo had a 360-degree dunk, a tomahawk slam and a dunk over Kyle O’Quinn during a do-it-all performance that sent the Knicks to their sixth straight defeat. He had 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and six steals.
“You see what Oladipo can do,” Jeff Hornacek said. “That’s what makes him tough.”
The slow-footed Knicks gave the Pacers (32-25) too many open looks from three-point range and couldn’t stay in front of Oladipo. Indiana was 12-for-28 on three-pointers. Bojan Bogdanovic was 4-for-7 from outside the arc and had 20 points.
But the Knicks (23-34) hope they found something in this game as Hornacek played Mudiay and rookie Frank Ntilikina together. That probably will be something that happens regularly in the final 25 games of this season. Jarrett Jack started but played only 8:08, and a change at starting point guard is coming.
Mudiay and Ntilikina were productive together. Mudiay, acquired from Denver on Thursday in a three-team trade, had his first double-double since Jan. 16, 2017. Ntilikina had 12 points and an assist in 31 minutes. The ball moved and the Knicks finished with 22 fast-break points, but defense remains an issue.
“Those guys gave us a lot of energy,” Hornacek said. “Both were coming off pick-and-rolls and they were making some things happen. I think it was just their activity.”
Mudiay’s performance was impressive, considering he hasn’t gone through a practice yet. He went over some things with the coaching staff Saturday and before the game, and he just “played freely,” he said.
“I love playing pick-and-roll ball, so I was just trying to make plays for others while also making plays for myself,” he said. “I pick up on a lot of stuff pretty fast, so yesterday when I went over to the gym, we stayed for an hour just going over plays. That helped me out. They gave me a sheet of paper today to just kind of go over the names.”
Said Hornacek, “I thought he had good court sense, made some great passes. I think he sees where the rotations are coming from, and when we start knocking those shots down, his assists will be climbing up.”
Enes Kanter had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. also scored 17 points for the Knicks, who made the game interesting after falling behind by 20 in the third quarter.
Mudiay and Ntilikina helped lead the Knicks back, sparking a 16-4 run in the third and fourth quarters. Two free throws by Ntilikina made it 94-86 27 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Knicks cut it to 103-96 on Hardaway’s driving layup with 7:45 left, but the Pacers opened a 113-98 lead on Oladipo’s three-point play with 5:34 left.
Ntilikina’s three-pointer cut it to 117-111 with 1:10 to go, but Oladipo put the game away with a three-pointer with 51.7 seconds left.
“It feels good to play,” Mudiay said. “But I think winning is the most important thing.”