Highlights: Knicks vs Pacers
Lance Stephenson had a career-high 28 points and Paul George added 25 as the Pacers win big at home over the Knicks 117-89.
CHICAGO – Nearly halfway through a grueling 82-game schedule, one thing is becoming crystal clear in this 2013-14 NBA season: The Indiana Pacers are definitely the head of the class.
They hold the best record with 31 wins against 7 defeats. They also own the league's best defense, surrendering just 88.1 points a game while allowing the opposition to shoot only 40.9 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from 3-point range.
Led by All-Star Paul George's 22 a game, all Pacers starters average in double figures in points, which explains why they whip 97.9 a contest while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and a high 36 percent from the 3-point arc.
With 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert joined in the frontline by a pair of two 6-foot-9 forwards, Indy outrebounds their foes 44.6 to 40.2 and dole out more assists, 20.9 to 17.1. Their only wrinkle is coughing up 15.5 turnovers per while forcing just 14.7 on the other end. .
The Knicks made it a game for a while and even led by 8 in the opening quarter. But after the Pacers dropped a 33-17 bomb in the second quarter, this one was over quickly and emphatically before finally resting at 117-89.
Lance Stephenson, a native New Yorker, led the onslaught with 28 points while George added 25. Four other Pacers – Hibbert, David West, Danny Granger and Luis Scola – had at least 10 points each and Indy made 43 of 86 field goals, 10 of 23 threes and 21 of 23 free throws.
New York, meanwhile, couldn't find the rim with a map.
The Knicks made only 34 of 85 field goals and 4 of 19 threes. They clunked 5 of their 22 free throws and, as usual, their offense stagnated with only 16 assists, 10 less than the pass-happy Pacers.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 28 points on 8-for-17 shooting but with 1:59 left in the third quarter and his team down 85-63, Melo forced a shot against a triple-team, conveniently ignoring wide open teammates scattered around him.
Such selfishness is one of the many reasons why the Knicks are 15-24 pretenders.
But enough of those depressing Knicks. Let's talk Pacers, who are pretty damn good.
Besides winning 95 percent of their home games at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers are 11-6 on the road. It's usually home court disadvantage for host teams when Indiana is visiting.
The Pacers have held 32 of their 38 opponents to under 100 points and 5 of their 7 losses happened on the second night of back-to-back schedules. I point this out because in the playoffs, there are no back-to-back games.
Unlike some of the egomaniacs prowling the NBA hard court, Indiana's stars are not hungry for attention. They're just simple dudes who play fundamentally sound basketball on both ends of the floor.
More importantly, these Pacers have the self-assured swagger of dangerous contenders. And they are not afraid of anybody, including those whose jerseys say "Miami".