Knicks never gain lead against Pacers, suffer their second straight loss
So after a film session in which they watched and made an honest assessment of their flaws, they came to Gainbridge Fieldhouse intent on not letting that happen again.
The good news was that they didn’t. But the reason was not as good. The Knicks this time saw a Pacers’ squad which came into the game with a 2-6 record jump out to an 11-0 lead, build the margin to as many as 15 and never trail. The result was a disappointing 111-98 loss, the second straight for the Knicks as they now head to Milwaukee.
"As a group we didn’t play well," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We’re all part of it — coaches, players. We’re all part of it and this is part of a season. How do we navigate it? And give the Pacers credit. They started off the season with tough losses and now they’re playing great basketball. So things in this league can change quickly. And we have to make it change quickly."
This time the Knicks spent the night chasing, trying to find a way to get on track. They closed the gap to three in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter got as close as two. But every time the Pacers had an answer.
The Knicks trailed just 85-83 with 9:47 to play after Derrick Rose drove the length of the floor for a tough layup. But after an Indiana timeout, T.J. McConnell delivered a three-point field goal. The Knicks hung around, still down just 90-85 after an Alec Burks steal and pass ahead to Rose for a fast break layup.
But up 95-91, Myles Turner scored inside and after a miss on the other end, dropped in a three-pointer on a pretty feed from Domantas Sabonis.
The Pacers kept extending the lead as the Knicks just couldn’t find an answer, struggling to connect and frantically chasing the Pacers balanced scoring attack. The lead ballooned again down the stretch and the Knicks were a pale version of the team that had jumped out to a 5-1 start this season.
"We made a good run," Evan Fournier said. " . . . They did a good job executing down the stretch. There were some calls that were questionable, could’ve gone either way. Tonight I really feel they made plays to win and we didn’t. Sometimes it comes down to that. We had opportunities and just didn’t score."
Randle struggled to find his place in the offense again, finishing just 6 of 16 from the field even as he compiled 18 points and 14 rebounds. RJ Barrett led the scoring with 23 points, but Walker shot 2-for-11.
"They started off quick," Randle said. "We were able to claw and get back into the game, but momentum was on their side and we felt like we were kind of fighting an uphill battle the rest of the game."
Recognizing you have a problem is a first step and players like Derrick Rose, Fournier and Randle are experienced enough to know that the record can hide problems. The Knicks have seen their offense improve radically with the additions of Walker and Fournier.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Walker was leading the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage (56.8%) and Rose was tied for seventh at 50% with Fournier, RJ Barrett and Alec Burks all over 40%.
Rose believes that the Knicks will get on track and if they continue to win and make the adjustments, they can reach their goals.
"We’ve got a winning record," he said. "I’ve played on teams where it was the opposite and you feel like the season is over and you’ve got to climb. You’re fighting up a mountain — not a hill but a mountain — the entire year. So yeah, it’s good to be on the other side."
Notes & quotes: Nerlens Noel made his first appearance of the season, regular season or preseason, entering with 4:08 left in the first quarter. He played 17 minutes and 48 seconds.