Post Up: Counterpunch

by May 08, 2013

Knicks 105, Pacers 79 (Series tied 1-1)

After getting punched in the mouth during its Game 1 loss on Sunday, the Knicks retaliated with a second half flurry to even the series at one heading back to Indiana. New York ended the third quarter on a 10-2 run and absolutely steamrolled the Pacers in the fourth, going on a 30-2 run that put them up 26 and prompted head coach Frank Vogel to pull his starters and call it a night.

The Pacers played the Knicks even through much of the first three quarters and  led 64-62 with just over three minutes to go in the third when coach Vogel decided to burn a timeout and replaced Roy Hibbert with Jeff Pendergraph. As soon as Melo saw Hibbert on the bench, his eyes lit up and he took it right to the rack and yammed on Pendegraph. From that point on, it was all New York.

“You gotta give them credit, they played a great basketball game,” said Vogel. “Twenty one turnovers is self inflicting and not handling their pressure and giving them 13 second chance shots really cost us the game. You’re not going to win a game when you give the other team 23 more shots than you take.”

During Game 1, the Pacers used their size to disrupt the Knicks rhythm and shut them down offensively. In Game 2, the Knicks broke out of their slump, shooting just under 50 percent from the field while scoring 52 points in the paint compared to the Pacers 40. Carmelo Anthony, who has come under much scrutiny for his recent cold streak, shot the lights out during New York’s 30-2 run, scoring 16 of his 32 points during the stretch.

“I can’t stop attacking, I can’t stop being aggressive out there on the basketball court,” said Melo. “I think I did a good job of making some adjustments out there and was just being patient. In that first game I thought I was being a little too impatient coming off the pick and rolls…Tonight it was just a matter of getting to the paint and distributing the ball and getting guys open shots.”

The playoffs are always an awesome time for role players to step up and push their way into the spotlight, and Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni got his time to shine. Prigioni (it’s been a great few days for Argentinian basketball, huh?) stepped in after Raymond Felton went down with what looked like an ankle injury and opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and floater in the lane that sent the Garden faithful into hysterics. Prigioni also found Tyson Chandler for a huge alley-oop later in the quarter that put a stamp on the victory. Prigioni finished with 10 points on 4-4 shooting.

“Tonight Pablo was spectacular on both ends of the court,” said Anthony. “He controlled the game and controlled the ball, on defense he pressured the ball and it got us up and pressuring the ball too.”

Not to be outdone by his teammate, Iman Shumpert finished with 15 points on 7-11 shooting which included a huge putback dunk, and continued his stellar defense to earn the praises of his coach.

“He’s getting better,” said Woodson of Shump. “He’s come a long way…He’s got a lot of pop now, he’s moving well laterally, he’s jumping well and he’s shooting the ball. He’s doing all the things we thought he was going to do and I can’t help but think he’s going to grow and get better.”

Despite the blowout loss, the Pacers are feeling good after stealing Game 1 in New York. Heading back home, where they compiled a 30-11 record during the regular season, there is no sense of pressure after losing by 26.

“It’s 1-1 and we still feel comfortable, it was a winnable game,” said Paul George who led the Pacers with 20 points. “Going into the fourth, we had all the confidence, we just couldn’t make shots..Being on an opponent’s floor, you just dig yourself in a hole when you shoot like that.”

The teams have the rest of the week off and both coaches will be going back to the drawing board to figure out how to gain the upper hand heading into Game 3. Regardless of adjustments, expect more hard nosed, physical play from both teams. —Peter Walsh

Grizzlies 99, Thunder 93 (Series tied 1-1)

Memphis was better than OKC for most of Game 1, and they were better for all of Game 2. The Grizzlies led at the break but trailed by 5 after three. The deficit was erased with a quick fourth quarter run, which put the Grizz up 84-80 with 7:41 to play. A Mike Conley triple gave them a two-point advantage with under two minutes left, and his jumper with 1:04 remaining created some separation. Memphis hung on from there.

After struggling in Game 1, Conley was unbelievable last night. He scored 26 points (11/22) with 10 boards and 9 assists and only 2 turnovers. He also held his counterpart Reggie Jackson to 2 assists and 3 turnovers. Marc Gasol was great, too, scoring 24 with 5 boards and 5 assists. Z-Bo added 15 and 8 and Tony Allen scored 12, and picked up 5 steals while playing his typical great defense.

Kevin Durant dropped 36 with 11 boards and 9 assists and Derek Fisher turned in a vintage performance (19 points, 4 threes) for OKC, but it wasn’t enough. Kevin Martin was awful, shooting 2-of-11 for 6 points. Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka, who are supposed to be the third and fourth options on the team, combined for 21 points. They need to give Durant more help. The Thunder failed to score on five of their final six possessions.

The Grizzlies had more rebounds (43-35), more points in the paint (50-30) and fewer turnovers (21-11) than the Thunder.

The series will now shift back to Memphis, and OKC is in real trouble. The Grizzlies have looked like the better team so far, and now they’ve stolen home-court advantage. Durant has been great for the Thunder, but he needs somebody else to step up like Martin did in Game 1, when he scored 25. Ibaka was a pretty reliable scorer in the regular season, but he he’s struggled offensively early on in this series.

If Conley continues to dominate like he did on Tuesday night, I can’t see the Thunder winning a game in Memphis. That would make this a six-game series, and maybe even a five-gamer. I love the Grizzlies’ chances to reach the Finals.

KD will have a chance to swing the series back in OKC’s favor with a big game on Saturday afternoon. —Leo Sepkowitz