George, Pacers top Anthony-less Knicks
by Mike Wells, USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS — The question was expected. The Indiana Pacers handled the creampuffs on their schedule to close out 2012.
That’s nice and all because that’s what they’re supposed to do. But everybody wondered if they could handle the teams with a winning record. Then one by one — the Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat — the Pacers knocked them off over the past 11 days, with the only hiccup coming against the Boston Celtics.
Then came Thursday night.
The New York Knicks came to town for a rare national television game. TNT broadcaster Reggie Miller was back in the building that helped him become a Basketball Hall of Famer. And like they did three days ago against the Heat, the Pacers knocked off a team above them in the standings.
The Pacers continued their season-long trend of playing lockdown defense to beat the Knicks 81-76 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Knicks were without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who was suspended one game for confronting Celtics center Kevin Garnett after a game.
If you didn’t believe in the Pacers before, it’s time to start believing now.
“I think our confidence is high and I think it’s been like that all year,” Pacers point guard George Hill said. “We let a lot of games slip and let some tough ones slip away, too. But we think we can compete with any team in the NBA and we have to carry ourselves that way and keep playing that way.”
The way the Pacers play isn’t always pretty. Their offense is still miles behind their defense, which is the best in the NBA. They put their workman boots on and compete every game.
The Pacers held the Knicks to 35% shooting. New York guard J.R. Smith came off the bench to lead all scorers with 25 points.
“They’re rising to the challenge,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Anybody that knows sports knows that a team that can be the best defensive team in the league, whatever sport it is, has a chance to go all the way. We’re keeping it on an even keel. We’re understanding what we’re doing defensively is … [For more on Paul George, hot Pacers top Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks, click here.]