After beating up on some of the lesser NBA teams en route to amassing a six-game winning streak, the New York Knicks were supposed to get a rude awakening by the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night. However, there was a mix-up on the exact timing of the wake-up call, perhaps because the staff confused A.M. and P.M., but the Knicks have yet to wake up from their dream run this season. On Wednesday, instead of seeing their winning streak come to an end, the Knicks prolonged it by knocking off the Pacers 92-86.
In winning the game, the Knicks not only went head-to-head with a top NBA team and came out on top, but they also reversed another season-long trend: making a series of fourth quarter mistakes to seal their own defeat. From the moment the tip-off had begun the game, the Knicks were ready for action and used the first half of the contest to build up a double-digit lead; in constructing that advantage, the Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, who chipped in with 28 of the Knicks' 47 first-half point total.
The Knicks were not all offense all the time in the first half, though. Although the offensive exploits of Anthony and Stoudemire definitely propelled the team to their 12-point first half lead, it was a lead that would never have gotten out of the starting gates without some exceptional defense played by the usually defensive-deficient club. In the first half, the Knicks held the Pacers to a lowly 14 of 34 from the field; exacerbating the Pacers' offensive woes in the first half were their 10 turnovers.
Of course, the Pacers are not exactly such an abysmal offensive unit and the Knicks are not actually of the Chicago Bulls caliber when it comes to defending opponents so it was really a matter of time before the Pacers were able to score with the ease that other Knicks opponents have, thus providing the Pacers with the impetus to close the deficit between the two clubs.
And with 10:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, a Paul George shot made it a one-point game, the closest the Pacers had been to the Knicks since 5:55 left in the first quarter. Normally, with an opponent having walked down the Knicks and there being so much time remaining in the game, the Knicks would have imploded and let the Pacers walk away with another win.
On Wednesday, though, a more resilient Knicks was on the court and they beat back the Pacers' advances by hitting clutch baskets and getting timely defensive stops. After George's make, the Knicks scored eight straight points to strengthen their lead while the Pacers went on to miss their next four field goal attempts. When the Knicks were at their most vulnerable, the Pacers were unable to finish them off and the Knicks took advantage by going on enough mini-runs for the rest of the quarter to seal the victory.
With a victory like that, the Knicks are right on the cusp of making NBA followers believers in the idea that they are actually turning their season around enough to make a push for the Eastern Conference's last playoff seed. Right now, the Knicks are four games back of the Atlanta Hawks with 14 games to play. It will be an uphill climb to knock off the Hawks for the eighth seed, but if the Knicks can continue to play as they have of late, then it is becoming more and more of a possibility.