>> With the guy who scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to steal a game in this building 18 years before watching from courtside, the Pacers managed two points in more than 12 minutes in the second half to give one away. After taking a 64-62 lead on a George Hill 3-pointer with 3:28 left in the third quarter, they missed their next 14 shots as Carmelo Anthony exploded, scoring 16 of his 32 points in an absurd 36-4 run that pushed the lead to 30.
>> What happened, Frank Vogel? “We turned the ball over, we didn’t make free throws, we gave up second shots, we didn’t guard the paint or the rim and we didn’t score.” Other than that …
>> What happened, David West? “I just thought we didn’t close the third the right way, found ourselves on our heels and they were just too comfortable taking and making shots. I don’t think we did as good a job as we know we can in terms of finishing possessions. I thought we let them off the hook a little bit.”
>> What happened, Paul George? “Melo just caught fire. We switched our personnel up a little bit and Melo just caught fire. He found opportunity and he found mismatches and he was just being aggressive.”
>> What happened, Roy Hibbert? “They just closed out the third quarter, the momentum shifted, Melo got hot, he was hitting threes, hitting the mid-range and he felt comfortable. … There was a little crack of sunlight and they took advantage of it.”
>> Vogel became a piñata on Twitter for calling a timeout with 3:05 left in the third, after the Pacers took the lead and then got a stop. Critics said he unnecessarily killed momentum and blamed his decision for launching the Knicks’ run. Yes, it was a bad timeout, one that reflected coaching habit rather than feel for the game. But to lay the next 12 minutes at Vogel’s feet is to oversimplify what happened and take the players off the hook.
>> My opinion: the Pacers had played sloppily up to that point but managed to hang around and when they finally made a little run to take their first lead, they acted like they’d already sprinted through the tape when the finish line was still miles away.
>> How sloppily, you ask? They committed 21 turnovers that the Knicks turned into 32 points. In three losses in New York this season, the Pacers gave it away 66 times and were outscored 83-20 on points off turnovers. Paul George had seven and George Hill four, so the guys that handled the ball the most protected it the least.
>> Mix in New York’s 13 offensive rebounds and the Knicks had 23 more shots than the Pacers. Unless you’re shooting 75 percent from the field, you can’t win with that kind of imbalance.
>> A little more math. The Knicks had advantages of 32-6 on turnover points and 29-8 on second-chance points, so nearly 60 percent of the New York offense was pure opportunity. As the Pacers shook hands after the game, they should’ve repeated, “You’re welcome.”
>> George scored 20 and shot well on the road for a change (8 for 16) but nine of his attempts were 3-pointers, he rarely attacked the rim (other than the one monster dunk) and, again, seven turnovers.
>> The Knicks double-teamed the post more aggressively and the Pacers gave into the defense. Rather than kicking out, reversing and re-posting, they just started tossing up 3-pointers (8 for 25). Meanwhile, David West and Roy Hibbert combined for 14 shots, one less than J.R. Smith.
>> Bottom line, the Pacers did get the opening road split, so they have that going for them, which is nice. But this was an embarrassing collapse that will haunt them for the next three days until Game 3 finally arrives Saturday night. The Knicks will use the break to get healthier, with Anthony’s sore left shoulder getting needed rest, Amar’e Stoudemire expected to return and Steve Novak coming all the way back. The Pacers must use the time to get their minds right, because they played Game 2 as if they thought this was going to be easy, much like the mindset they took into Atlanta in the first round after winning the first two at home.
>> And now, we wait.