New York • Bigger, badder, and so far better.
Physical beat finesse Sunday, as the Indiana Pacers outworked and outmuscled the New York Knicks in a 102-95 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
David West scored 20 points and Paul George added 19 for the Pacers, who outrebounded the Knicks 44-30, showing the smaller team that in the rugged East, size does matter.
“I thought guys did a good job just putting them on their heels,” West said. “We were attacking, we were aggressive.”
D.J. Augustin had 16 points for the Pacers, who built a 16-point lead while Carmelo Anthony was on the bench in foul trouble in the third quarter, and easily held on to spoil the Knicks’ first second-round game since 2000.
Anthony finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds but was frustrated by the Pacers’ tough defense and by the referees. He shot 10-for-28 from the field and was perhaps thrown out of sync having to defend West, a natural power forward, inside.
“Right now, they’re just being really physical with him, they’re trying to bang him, they’re trying to frustrate him,” Knicks point guard Raymond Felton said. “But we’re going to be fine, he’s going to be fine.”
Game 2 is here Tuesday night, and then the series takes a lengthy break before Game 3 on Saturday in Indiana.
The Pacers, who allowed the second-fewest points per game and the lowest field goal percentage in the league during the regular season, mixed in solid offense as well. They outscored New York 59-38 across the middle two quarters and were comfortably ahead throughout the fourth.
“Just a strong defensive effort and then offensively guys played with great poise,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Just a complete team effort, very proud of them.”
J.R. Smith scored 17 points but was 4-for-15. Felton scored 18 and Kenyon Martin added 12 for the Knicks, who hope to have reserves Amare Stoudemire (right knee surgery) and Steve Novak (back spasms) back for Game 3 and certainly looked as if they could use the help.
Indiana led 60-54 when Anthony committed his fourth foul and came out of the game with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter. The Pacers then outscored the Knicks 21-11 the remainder of the period, opening an 81-65 bulge on Augustin’s 3-pointer with 31.5 seconds left in the quarter.
“They did all the little things,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “We didn’t start playing until we actually got down and it was desperation and we’ve got to play like that from the start.”