Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel congratulates Paul George after George was removed late in the second half of Game on Tuesday, May 14, in Indianapolis. Indiana defeated New York 93-82. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Just by looking at the two teams’ contrasting body language, it's easy to detect which team is up 3-1 in their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
While both the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks are definitely capable of advancing to the next round, the intangibles have been dramatically evident in one team more than the other.
And who better to embody that than the Pacers’ veteran leader David West, who has put forth a quintessential 10-year career as a model citizen and a professional.
“This is a very good group of guys, high character locker room; guys who are out in the world doing the right things, which is key to having a great locker room,” West told this scribe after their dominant 93-82 win over the Knicks in Game 4 at home.
“The guys are humble, willing to work. They come in and are just willing to do their work,” added the two-time NBA All-Star.
While the Knicks have struggled on offense relying on individualistic efforts from their stars Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, the Pacers have shared the basketball and have regularly put five or more players in double-digit point outputs.
Perhaps TNT’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith said it best: “Why is it that I can say ‘good pass’ so many times in the Pacers highlights, and how many times can’t I say it in the Knicks?”
The Pacers have been doing it on the defensive end as well. The stinginess of their team defense has been as evident as it has been all season long against the Knicks, forcing them to shoot at 35.2 and 35.6 percent from the field in their recent home wins, as Anthony and Smith continued to force their shots.
And through it all, the Pacers have kept their composure even when things have not gone their way, while the Knicks have argued with referees and have committed plenty of mental lapses to close quarters and committed too many foolish fouls, especially from their starters.
The younger Pacers have surprisingly shown more maturity.
“We just stay level-headed. We don’t get too high, we don’t get too low,” said Pacers All-Star Paul George. “When teams go on a run, we do a good job in staying together, not calling other guys out. We’re a family here. Everybody’s on the same page.”
Knicks All-Star center Tyson Chandler’s comments about his team was the opposite.
"Honestly, we're doing it to ourselves," Chandler said after the Knicks’ Game 3 loss last weekend.
"I watched the tape myself and there are open looks. We have to be willing passers. You have to sacrifice yourself sometimes for the betterment of the team and for the betterment of your teammates. So when you drive in the paint and you draw, you kick it,” he added.
In Game 4, Anthony and Smith jacked up 45 of their team’s 87 shot attempts, often times on one-on-one plays. The same was also seen in their defense on many occasions with players failing to help the helper, and boxing out the offensive rebounder.
West believes it all starts with character.
“As the year went on, some guys were going out of the lineup, back in the lineup, but everyone stayed consistent with their work,” he said. “The effort and how tied together we are. There’s no in-fighting or bickering in this locker room. That’s probably the biggest key for us.”
With no marquee name or superstar, the Pacers have shown just how good a team of very good players can be if they come together and put the name in front of their jerseys before the one on their backs.
Game 5 rolls back to the Madison Square Garden where the Knicks will fight for their playoff mortality on Thursday (Friday morning in Manila).
Follow Dennis on Twitter @dRealSource.