The Indiana Pacers were hit hard with the New York Knicks style to start the series. They need to hit back.

The Pacers are running out of time to respond
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) reacts after scoring against the Indiana Pacers.
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) reacts after scoring against the Indiana Pacers. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — The Indiana Pacer Game 2 loss to the New York Knicks was the exact type of game they hoped to win before the series started.

The Pacers knew the Knicks would be physical. They're a hard-playing team that hits hard and is physical for 48 minutes. Any lapses on the glass or defensively would be instantly punished by a focused, intense New York team. That's been the identity of the Knicks under Tom Thibodeau for years.

At times, the Pacers have handled it well throughout their second-round series with the Knicks. But too often, they have been overwhelmed by the Knicks being, well, the Knicks. Despite leading at halftime in both games so far in the series, Indiana finds themselves down 0-2 in the series.

“It seems like they really just wanted it more tonight with their energy and the way the crowd got into it," Pacers guard T.J. McConnell said after Game 2. "We have to pick it up in the second half because we know they can come in waves.”

Indiana's play in the series has been up and down. They've had stretches where they look like the better team — their bench has been good, and they led by nine early in the fourth quarter of Game 1, for example. When Tyrese Haliburton was rolling early in Game 2, the Pacers looked fantastic. They have some confidence in the series because of those moments.

But more often, this best-of-seven set has been in the Knicks style. The game slows down thanks to intense defense and long possessions. The boards become a battle. New York plays several players for 40+ minutes per game, and they grind the game to a halt when they can.

It works for them, but it's the opposite of how the blue and gold want to play. The sixth-seeded group wants to play fast, get into their offense quickly, and play random basketball. It forces their opponents to be reactive and think instead of playing naturally.

New York's defense and poise means that the Pacers are usually the team thinking and reacting. They have to assess where the best shot is coming from, and they've made good decisions. But over a full game, that battle has favored the Knicks twice so far.

Indiana rightly won't be worried about their offense, though. They've scored well throughout the series. They can't get stops. The Knicks have scored over 120 points in both games of the series so far, and star guard Jalen Brunson has been difficult to contain. The Pacers being unable to keep up has been their biggest issue. They can't get stops, and even when they do, the Knicks have crushed them on the glass. In the second half of the first two games this series, New York is out-rebounding Indiana by 12 rebounds per game.

"We've got to be better defensively, just got to be better as a group, match their intensity, be better in the second half and the third quarter got away from us and flipped the game," Haliburton said after Game 2. "But we were right there in the fourth and didn't make enough plays down the stretch."

Head coach Rick Carlisle agreed. "Give New York credit for the physicality they are playing with," he said Wednesday night.

Even though the Pacers have been close late in both games so far, they have to find a way to make these games be played in their style. So far, only pockets of the series have been Pacers basketball. It has been defined by New York's physical style.

It's easier said than done to flip the speed and tempo of a guard. It's not possible to flip a switch and change the identity of a game. But Indiana, via adjustments and defensive success, found ways to make their first-round series with the Bucks a best-of-seven that was played their way. They need to find a way to do that against New York.

"They did what they do, they play hard, they were on the glass, they were getting stops

and they just had a really good third quarter, still scored the ball well and we just didn't

match that and 18 points in the third that's just not us," Haliburton said after Game 2.

Nobody has been able to figure out the Knicks physicality yet in this postseason. It's how they got by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, and it has them ahead in round two. All of their games are close, yet all of their possessions are poised. They embody the next man up mentality.

Yet the Pacers, thanks to their depth and speed, have shown at times this series that they can outplay New York. They just haven't been able to for a full 48 minutes. With the series shifting back to Indianapolis, they'll need to figure it out quickly.

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  • The little things and the biggest thing will define Game 2 for the Indiana Pacers against the New York Knicks. CLICK HERE.
  • Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle unhappy with officiating vs Knicks, team submits clips to NBA. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers fall apart in second half again and drop Game 2 to New York Knicks, trail 0-2 in series. CLICK HERE.
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Tony East


Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.