INDIANAPOLIS–Victor Oladipo flirted with a triple double. Lance Stephenson rocked out on the air guitar a few times during a fourth-quarter run. It was just your typical night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse as the Indiana Pacers (32-25) took care of business against the undermanned New York Knicks (23-34) with a 121-113 victory.
The Pacers defense was a little late to the game after giving up 37 points in the first quarter and 62 at halftime but they still led by six at the break.
“We still didn’t establish ourselves defensively, certainly not in that first half,” said Pacers Coach Nate McMillan. “If we weren’t scoring and shooting the ball at such a high percentage, this could have been a different outcome.”
The Pacers opened up the game after halftime behind some repeated forced turnovers from their all star.
During a four possession stretch for the Knicks in the third quarter that spanned only a little over a minute worth of game time, Oladipo stole the ball three times, leading to six points and pushing the Pacers lead to 17.
“We did a good job of settling down on both ends of the floor, getting stops and just trying to dictate our pace on both ends of the floor,” said Oladipo, who finished with 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and six steals.
The Pacers fast-break machine got plenty of practice for the upcoming dunk contest with breakaway looks all night, including a 360 in the first half and a posterization of Kyle O’Quinn.
Despite the Pacers pushing the lead all the way to 20, the Knicks managed to hang around.
“I think there were times tonight where we needed to put our foot down and we didn’t do that,” said Myles Turner, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds. “We’re happy with the outcome obviously, but we’ve got to continue to do that against these–I guess–bottom feeder teams.”
Playing with a big lead has been a challenge for a team that has been used to being on the other end of large deficits while making numerous comebacks on the season.
“Sometimes when you get a big lead, guys tend to relax,” said McMillan on the team’s struggles playing with a lead, “and one shot can take you out of rhythm. We had a couple of those plays where guys started to get a little fancy out there. I think we took some quick shots and kind of lost our rhythm. You have to stay focused and stay within the game plan. You don’t play the scoreboard, you play the game and you always play the game the right way for the full 48 minutes.”
While Oladipo led the way with another impressive all-around show, the Pacers had a balanced offensive attack with efficient nights from both Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young.
Bogdanovic had 20 points on just 13 shots and has recovered nicely from his shooting slump in January, where he made only 29% of his shots from deep. He’s shooting 50% from range so far in February.
“I thought he kind of hit a wall about a week ago,” McMillan said of Bogdanovic’s struggles. “He looked a little fatigued. Shots were short and he kind of lost his rhythm. He seemed like he kind of got that energy back. … He looks much better than he did a week or so ago.”
Young put up 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a fittingly quiet double double for the Pacers veteran.
“The sky is the limit for us,” said Young after the game. “We play for one another and we do it for the brothers. We go out there and continue to fight.”
The Pacers set a season-high in rebounds with 54 and out-rebounded the Knicks by nine on the night. It’s the second straight game that the Pacers have set or tied a season-high in rebounds following the Pacers win over the Celtics, in which they grabbed 53 rebounds.
The Pacers have one final game before the All-Star break on the road against the Brooklyn Nets, but they don’t want to look ahead to the break and overlook their opponent.
“All-Star Weekend is great, but at the end of the day we have bigger aspirations and bigger goals for this group and this season so we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Al Jefferson, who scored six points off the bench, called these days before the break the most important of the season.
“Sometimes it’s just easy to get in that vacation mode before we had that last game,” said Jefferson, “and I can’t let these guys do that. We’ve been playing well and going into the break would feel so much better if we go and take care of business in Brooklyn.”
This story originally appeared on IndySportsLegends.com.
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