Indiana Center Roy Hibbert could do no wrong. He lived in the paint. At times, he looked so dominant that if you didn’t see his face or the uniform, or the number on the back of his jersey, you would think Hakeem Olajuwon came back as a Pacer.
But Hibbert’s dominance is only part of the story. The other pieces of the narrative is that the Knicks’ two primary strengths, guard play and three-point shooting, were pretty much non-existent. When two strengths become weaknesses, it usually means you’re toast.
The Knicks starting backcourt, which had been dominant throughout the playoffs, was badly outplayed by the Pacers’ pair in Game 3. The truth of this notion is undisputable when you glimpse the numbers: Raymond Felton, one for eight, and Pablo Prigioni, zero for three, combined for six points total. For the numerically averse, that means “supremely ugly.”
Conversely, the starting Pacers’ backcourt of George Hill and Lance Stephenson combined for 25 points.
In terms of three-point shooting, a reversal of roles occurred in this game: the normally conservative Pacers took 33 three-pointers, while the shot-jacking Knicks only shot 11 times. The three-pointer, a primary weapon in the Knicks arsenal, a tool the team uses to create space on the floor, was practically missing.
While the Pacers’ didn’t exactly set the court on fire, Hill, Stephenson and forward Paul George hit enough shots to keep the Knicks honest.
But mostly, it was Hibbert, who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Using an array of spin moves and hooks, Hibbert played like a boss, offensively. He ground the soul of Knicks starting center Tyson Chandler into a fine powder. The 7-1 Chandler looked nothing like the dude who became an interior force during the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run two years ago.
Almost all of the Knicks’ rotation played as if they had J.R. Smith’s 102-degree fever. After a strong stretch in the middle part of the game, Knicks top-dog Carmelo Anthony disappeared in the fourth quarter, just like his team. He came into the final quarter with 19 points but finished the game with 21.
In the first two games, the Knicks averaged 32 points in the final frame. In Game 3, the team could only muster 18. If you couldn’t see the Knicks players’ faces or the names on the back of their jerseys, you might confuse them an NIT tournament team.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+