NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Indiana Pacers came out ice cold against a revenge-minded New York Knicks team on Wednesday but showed their class and put the NBA on notice with a hot finish that produced another notch in the win column.
Indiana missed their first seven shots and fell 13-0 behind a Knicks team eliminated from last year’s playoffs by the Pacers, and which had lost their last four home games in struggling to a disappointing 3-7 start this season.
The Pacers refused to fold and worked their way back to force overtime at Madison Square Garden and win going away, 103-96, behind a spectacular finish by forward Paul George.
Indiana, who last year battled champions Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals, improved to a joint NBA-best 10-1 record as they bounced back from their first loss of the season on Saturday to the Chicago Bulls.
“Heck of a win for our guys,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters.
”Grind it out kind of game. The offense wasn’t really flowing, but our defense buckled down. I‘m proud to get a ‘W’ (win).
“Paul George was sensational, not only carrying the offensive load the way he did, but covering Carmelo Anthony for basically 48 minutes. I don’t know where he finds the energy but it’s special.”
Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points and pulled down 18 rebounds but it was not good enough to hold off the talented Pacers.
New York came out on a mission, throwing themselves into the contest to the delight of a roaring home crowd demanding payback over last season’s six-game loss to Indiana in the conference semi-finals.
But the Pacers showed their growing maturity by patiently whittling down the lead, reeling the Knicks in by the end of the game before leaving them lost again.
”I told the team, we may not see a team as desperate as we saw tonight all year,“ Vogel added. ”They played a great basketball game.
“They came after it, they really guarded it, they defended, they played extremely hard, they went for loose balls and we were still able to prevail. I‘m really proud of those guys.”
George calmly sank three free throws after he was fouled beyond the arc by Iman Shumpert with 5.2 seconds left in regulation to tie the game 89-89 and send it to extra time.
Vogel said he was confident about the outcome at that point.
“I feel right now we are playing some of the best basketball in the league and I feel like the extra five minutes favors the better team,” the coach said.
“That’s what I told our guys and the guys came out and took the game.”
George, who made 12-of-26 shots, poured in nine more points in overtime to finish with 35 points.
“Considering the way we started this night, we could have easily held our heads down and allowed New York to come up and put this game away early,” said George, who scored just 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting in the loss to Chicago.
“We know how to pull one another up, how to rally.”
Editing by John O'Brien