Pacers, Spurs win easily to take control of NBA playoff series
Indiana has a commanding 3-1 lead over the Knicks in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Meanwhile, San Antonio enjoys a 3-2 lead over Golden State in their Western Conference semifinal.
Hill Comes Up Huge in Pacers’ Shutdown of Knicks
The New York Knicks have been completely thrown off balance during their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Indiana Pacers, and Tuesday night was yet another textbook case of that as the Pacers rolled to a 93-82 victory at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana is now within one victory of moving on to the conference final for the first time since 2004. Various quarters have referred to the Knicks’ performance in this game as a “flop,” “ugly,” and “dreadful” – all of which easily applied.
The Pacers took charge early by hitting the boards hard, grabbing 54 rebounds to New York’s 36, with Indiana’s David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George each pulling down 10 or more ( 35 as a group). The Pacers’ George Hill had a double-double, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and adding a mammoth 14 rebounds and 7 assists in leading Indiana’s athletically superior attack – one that saw five Pacers players score in double-figures. And supplementing that juggernaut was Lance Stephenson’s three well-timed three-balls.
On the other hand, the Knicks were largely feeble on offense – Iman Shumpert and recently returning Amar’e Stoudemire accounting for just four points in 55 combined minutes of play. Carmelo Anthony once again led all New York scorers with 24 points. But Anthony fouled out in the fourth period before he could lead any meaningful Knicks comeback. All told, New York committed 29 personal fouls – with Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire each getting hit with technicals. In fact, the trio of Chandler, Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin had a total of nine fouls by halftime – three each. This effectively de-fanged their defensive efforts in the second half.
The Pacers, taking the Knicks’ lack of composure in stride, went on a 9-2 run to end the first period, and New York never threatened again. And in Indiana’s current five-game home playoff win streak, they’ve won each game by double-digits.
The saga of the Knicks’ J.R. Smith continues with his subpar series performance – though he did contribute 19 points Tuesday evening. Overall, he’s shooting 28% from the floor, having hit only 18 of 64 shots over the last four games. TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who has previously asserted that Smith’s relative absence from the scoreboard has placed an unfair burden on Anthony, remarked Tuesday night that Smith's just played too tentatively since his first-round suspension and that at this rate, he likely won't show up for the remainder of the series. Smith, though, has at least one more opportunity to confound the critics with Thursday night’s game at Madison Square Garden. For Smith and New York, it’s win or go home.
Spurs Short Circuit Warriors’ Curry Enroute to Commanding Win
San Antonio Spurs veteran guard Tony Parker, interviewed after Tuesday night’s resounding 109-91 victory over the Golden State Warriors, remarked that his team decided they had to shut down Stephen Curry, the Warriors’ perimeter shooting specialist, to give them a chance to win. And that’s exactly what the Spurs did in moving to a 3-2 Western Conference series lead over Golden State at San Antonio’s AT&T Center.
Parker credited Curry’s timely threes in last weekend’s contest as critical in getting the Warriors and their fans charged up to win. So the Spurs guards decided to stick to him like glue for 48 minutes and it proved devastatingly effective: Curry, who had been averaging 26 points per game, notched only 9 in Game 5 – including only 1-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc, to go with four turnovers. And Curry’s fellow backcourt standout, Klay Thompson, usually a reliable perimeter threat, hit only 2-of-8 from the field without a single three-point attempt.
But probably the most pleasant surprise for the Spurs this series has been the solid play of Kawhi Leonard, who Tuesday night scored 17 points and is shooting 58% from the floor for the series. During the critical third and early fourth periods, Leonard and Parker drove the paint almost at will to finally move the game out of reach, after the Warriors had pared the deficit to within four points at different points during the third quarter.
On the Warriors side, with Curry and Thompson effectively neutralized, the heavy lifting essentially fell to bench guard Jarrett Jack (20 points), former Purdue star Carl Landry (16 points) and newly minted “All Rookie Team” member Harrison Barnes, who hit for 25 points, including two three-pointers, as well as a team high 7 rebounds.
With hobbled big men Andrew Bogut and David Lee seeing limited action, the thrust of Golden State’s attack has been waged at the perimeter, with only Harrison Barnes making meaningful journeys into the paint. And now that San Antonio has figured out the Curry-Thompson tandem, it may be difficult at best for the Warriors to overcome San Antonio’s superior inside play.