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Weekend NBA action brings playoff picture into greater focus

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The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony had a phenomenal game, scoring 39 points, and J.R. Smith had a double-double, with 15 points and 10 boards. But foul trouble hobbled the Knicks in the closing period. Iman Shumpert, who with 3 three-pointers in the third period, spearheaded a three-point barrage together with teammates Smith and Chris Copeland (and tying the score at 72 in the third quarter), fouled out after 25 minutes on the court. This also was the case with the disappointing Chandler, who exited with 6 fouls after only 2 points and 6 rebounds on the night and Kenyon Martin, who had more fouls (6) than points (5) in 21 minutes on the floor. Raymond Felton punctuated this disappointment for New York, missing all seven of his shots. His drives inside were invaluable in the Knicks’ two series victories, and his non-production was a major factor in this game.

In the third quarter, the turning point for the Pacers had to have been the monster block of a one-handed slam by Carmelo Anthony by Roy Hibbert, which in turn was converted by Lance Stephenson’s layup at the other end of the floor. The Knicks were never really the same after that. In fact, shortly afterward, the energized Pacers had two more coast-to-coast layups by Stephenson, a tip-in by David West and timely free-throws to secure the Pacers the lead again for good.

Turning the ball over 10 fewer times than they did the previous game was critical for Indiana, which as much as any other factor proved them to be tighter, faster, more aggressive and more opportunistic on the evening. When asked afterward how this Indiana playoff team was different from last year’s squad that lost in the early rounds to Miami, Roy Hibbert responded that the addition of David West was a key component – that he “changed the culture” of the team – in making them more focused, resolute and resilient throughout the year. This complemented Lance Stephenson’s inspired play, which prompted Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to say “It’s believable but it’s unbelievable. He’s got no playoff experience whatsoever but he has some of the best basketball instincts I’ve ever been around ... the kid’s got a lot of guts.” 

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