NBA playoffs: Thunder and Pacers win conf. semifinal opening games
The Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated, respectively, the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies in NBA conference semifinal playoff action Sunday.
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After the New York Knicks outlasted an older, slower and injury-plagued Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, it had been said that their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Indiana Pacers would feature a younger version of that Boston team, with more possibilities to score. This proved painfully true for the Knicks as the Pacers got six players in double figures to defeat New York, 102-95 in Game 1 of the series at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.Skip to next paragraph
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The Pacers presented a balanced attack, scoring effectively in the post, in pick-and-rolls, and from the perimeter, where three-point specialist and former Illinois star D.J. Augustin hit four of five trés – and 16 points total – off the Indiana bench. Veteran David West was the team’s steady hand, leading the team with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting. West was followed by Paul George, who hit for 19 points, Augustin, who scored 16 and George Hill and Roy Hibbert, who contributed 14 each.
On defense, former Georgetown big man Hibbert blocked four shots for the Pacers, and the team as a whole grabbed a monster 44 rebounds to New York’s 30 – led by Indiana's Lance Stephenson’s 13 boards (11 of them defensive).
Carmelo Anthony, the inspirational leader of the Knicks’ first round, has gone cold as ice in shooting over his past four games, hitting only 27% from the floor and only 9% of threes (2 for 22). And on the other end of the floor, Knicks center Tyson Chandler was practically invisible, grabbing only three rebounds while scoring four points. Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith showed up well for New York, scoring a combined 29 points off the bench; but Jason Kidd was nowhere to be seen, scoring no points and only one assist in nearly 17 minutes on the floor.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson, reflecting after the game, said “I thought they played harder than our team tonight, that's the difference …We’ve got to play harder across the board for us to get out of this series.” It would seem that Indiana very successfully used a mixed-bag of offensive sets, together with superior defense inside the paint, in Game 1. They will be more than up to the challenge of countering any adjustments the Knicks make as the series progresses.