If game one of this Eastern Conference Semifinals match-up made you think that Roy Hibbert and the Pacers might well dominate the Knicks — and there were many points, particularly after the first quarter, when it felt exactly like that — most of game two made you feel a little better about everything. The Knicks looked like the better team most of the night, with a freewheeling offense that looked light years better than the ugly iso business of recent vintage and an opportunistic defense that forced a ton of Pacers turnovers. At halftime, the Knicks were up five despite quiet halves from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. (And they probably should have been up more; the Pacers went on an 8-0 run to end the half.) Most of all, there was this from Iman Shumpert. And this from Spike Lee. Then, in the fourth quarter: The Knicks took over and looked better than they have since game three of the Boston series. You can take a breath now.
It got a little hairy later on, particularly in the third quarter when the Pacers briefly took the lead, but the Knicks hung on for a while and then exploded late for a 105-79 game two win, tying the series at one game apiece and saving the Knicks from the brink of a disaster. The Pacers might still be the favorite in this series, thanks to home-court advantage, but going down 2-0 at home would have been a near death sentence for the Knicks. Now we’re back moving again.
Briefly, on the downsides of the night, before the Knicks took over late. For all the talk of Anthony’s and Smith’s early struggles, it was another rough game for Tyson Chandler. Hibbert is continuing to get the best of him on both ends of the court, and Chandler ended up with a eight-point, four-rebound night. You can make a strong argument that, his protests to the contrary, he’s still kind of hurt. Though that fourth quarter would make everyone feel better. Carmelo turned it around during a big run after a third-quarter Pacers timeout that gave the Knicks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. This was the key play of that, and we guarantee that you will enjoy watching that a lot. Anthony finished the night with 32 points and nine rebounds, with 22 of those points coming in the second half. (In the fourth, he could barely miss. The shoulder finally looked okay.) J.R. Smith, however, went 3-for-15 from the field again. He hasn’t been right since that Jason Terry elbow, if that means anything. But no need to harp on that when you just won by 26 points.
The true star of the night, until Anthony took over, was Shumpert, who for long stretches looked like the best player on the court. When he is playing with confidence, he injects the Knicks with a generous helping of the thing they lack the most (youth) and exemplifies what should be their strengths (driving the lane, defense, long-range shooting). His first-half heroics were matched in the fourth quarter by Pablo Prigioni, who scored five points in a row during a run that put the game away and had the Garden, sort of amazingly, chanting his name. That third-quarter timeout we told you about earlier? The one right in the middle of an Indiana momentum shift? The Knicks went on 30-2 run after that. That’ll put a game away. By the end, Mike Woodson, amusingly, brought in Quentin Richardson (who hit two three-pointers) and James White. That’s how well it went late.
The fourth quarter was so giddy, the breaking through of a stopped-up Knicks offense, that you’d think it’d be something the Knicks could build off for the next game. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the next game isn’t until Saturday. That’ll help some of the banged-up Knicks like Carmelo and Chandler heal a little bit — and let’s not forget Amar’e Stoudemire expects to be back for that game — but that’s so far away from now that we’ll all barely remember what even happened at the end of this game.
But still: The Knicks have tied the series up and had the Garden crowd roaring tonight. It had been a while. Everyone take a nap for five days, dreaming of that 30-2 run, and come Saturday, we’ll find out just which way this series is gonna turn. One thing seems clear now: It’s gonna be going on for a while. The Knicks made sure of that.