The little things and the biggest thing will define Game 2 for Indiana Pacers against New York Knicks

The Pacers and Knicks battle again tonight
May 6, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) controls the ball against the New York Knicks.
May 6, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) controls the ball against the New York Knicks. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — The Indiana Pacers dropped Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the New York Knicks on Monday, and while there were some frustrating moments down the stretch, the Pacers know that they have what it takes to get back on track in the series.

New York won 121-117, but Indiana led by nine in the final quarter and was even on the scoreboard with 41 seconds left. The margins between victory and defeat were small, and the Pacers feel that they can get a win in Game 2.

"I thought we played hard. There are some lapses we had, some minor mistakes," forward Aaron Nesmith said Tuesday after his team practiced. "But I honestly thought we did a pretty decent job for Game 1. We just fell short in some aspects of the game."

Compared to Game 1 of the Pacers first-round series, they made significant progress. There were no jitters, and they had the right intensity level for 48 minutes. Indiana had few lengthy stretches where they couldn't get stops or score. That kept them in the game.

But they still fell in the end. Tidying up a few little things — along with one massive thing — will be the keys for Indiana in Game 2 and beyond.

The most vital ability from the little things group is rebounding. In the first half, the Pacers did well in this department. They had three more boards than the Knicks, and they all came on the offensive end of the court. They needed every extra possession as they took a six-point lead into halftime.

In the second half, New York dominated the glass. They had 19 rebounds while the Pacers had eight, and those extra chances added up fast. Despite having six more second-half turnovers, the Knicks took two more shots than the visitors in the final two quarters, and they won the game by four points. They are known for their rebounding and used it in a major way late in Game 1.

"That got away from us in the second half," Pacers center Myles Turner said. He finished the game with just two boards — most of the blue and gold's rebounds came via their forwards. "The rebounding really hurt us and gave them extra possessions," guard T.J. McConnell added.

During the regular season, the Knicks ranked first in rebound percentage while the Pacers ranked 24th. It's no surprise that it became a storyline early in the series, and Indiana needs to be better in that area. Per possession, they know they can be more efficient than New York. But if they give the two seed extra opportunities to score, that doesn't matter much.

"As a collective, we need to be better rebounding the ball and [on] defense," McConnell said. Defense is the next place the Pacers will naturally go when looking at corrections from Game 1.

They started strong and held the Knicks to 49 first-half points, including just 22 in the second quarter. Their pressure was good, and the Pacers slowed down star guard Jalen Brunson after he scored a quick 10 points.

But in the second half, that all changed. New York scored 72 points across the final two periods. Brunson had 21 in the fourth quarter alone. Rebounding played a part in these numbers, but the Pacers effectiveness on defense dropped once the third quarter started. They need to find a way to bounce back and play 48 minutes of good basketball on the less glamorous end of the court.

"Fouls were a problem in the second half," head coach Rick Carlisle said of his team's second-half defense. He cited turnovers and rebounding as issues. Turner also pointed at rebounding as a problem on the defensive end in the second half.

Slight tweaks to their effectiveness on the glass and on defense will go a long way for the Pacers. But their biggest area of growth is as big as it gets: their star guard needs to be better.

Tyrese Haliburton finished Game 1 with six points, eight assists, four steals, and three turnovers. He took just six shots, including only one in the second half. Similar to the opening battle of Indiana's first-round series, their star didn't have a strong impact to get the best-of-seven set going.

"I'll be better in Game 2... Just be more aggressive, be myself," Haliburton said the following day. He noted that he erred on the side of playmaking, and the NBA's tracking data said he tossed almost 80 passes. That alone isn't a problem, and Indiana scored well enough in this game. But they need Haliburton to look at the rim more.

Nesmith said that it's up to Haliburton's teammates to make his life easier. "We go as he goes," he said. Everyone needs to help the two-time All-Star get rolling in Game 2.

If Haliburton is more effective and Indiana cleans up some mistakes on defense and on the glass, they will put themselves in a good position for Game 2. That is easier said than done, especially against a hard-playing Knicks team. But it could be the difference between winning and losing the series.

"This is a great experience for our guys. It comes at a cost, it's no fun," Carlisle said after Game 1. We're going to have to learn some things for Game 2."

  • Myles Turner finally reached the conference semifinals after a winding career with the Indiana Pacers. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers to face New York Knicks in 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals — Schedule, TV listings, and more. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers discuss the officiating from the end of Game 1 loss to New York Knicks. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers drop Game 1 late vs New York Knicks and fall behind 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.