The Indiana Pacers looked ready for the playoffs. The New York Knicks looked like they wanted a longer All-Star break.
Paul George scored 27 points and the Pacers powered their way closer to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Knicks 125-91 on Wednesday night.
”We were focused, since day one coming back,” George said. ”I think we really showed it tonight.”
David West had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Lance Stephenson added 14 points for Indiana (33-21), which pulled within a half-game of the Knicks for second place in the East.
The Pacers shot 53 percent from the field, scored a season-high point total and had a season-best 28 assists against the Atlantic Division leaders. It was Indiana’s largest margin of victory this season and New York’s worst loss.
”We didn’t show up,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. ”They whipped our (expletive) from beginning to end. It was nothing pretty about tonight’s game. It’s unacceptable. I mean, we didn’t compete. That’s on all of us.”
Tyson Chandler led New York (32-19) with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony, the league’s No. 2 scorer, finished with 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
George, fresh off a strong performance in his first All-Star Game appearance, made 11 of 19 shots, grabbed eight rebounds and played solid defense against Anthony.
Because of the blowout, Pacers coach Frank Vogel tried to downplay it afterward.
”We have to understand it’s just one win,” Vogel said. ”The Knicks didn’t have it tonight. Every team in the league has nights like this.”
The Knicks didn’t just play poorly, they lost their cool. New York was called for three individual technical fouls and a flagrant foul, and J.R. Smith was ejected.
Anthony appeared to be trying to send George a message early in the game, using his strength to overpower the more slender George near the basket. But George remained calm, played his game and made it his night.
Chandler, the only Knicks starter who played well, was frustrated the entire game as the Pacers hammered him with the physical style that has helped them lead the league in scoring defense.
”I think we got under their skin a little bit, but we can only control what’s in this locker room and I think we came out with an edge tonight,” George said.
Indiana held the Knicks to 34 percent shooting, and New York was shooting just under 30 percent after three quarters.
”We man up and hold each other accountable each possession, and then when things do go wrong, your teammate has your back,” Indiana point guard George Hill said. ”We have a special team and a special group where 1 through 5, no matter if it’s our starters or our bench, everybody can guard their man. You have to tip your hat to having such great defensive players on this team.”
The Pacers led 37-21 in the second quarter when Amare Stoudemire picked up his third foul and was called for a technical.
As Indiana’s lead grew, the Knicks unraveled. Kurt Thomas committed four fouls in six minutes, in the second quarter, then argued with fans when he went to the bench. Raymond Felton was called for a flagrant foul for elbowing Jeff Pendergraph.
Smith and Stephenson were jawing for much of the final minute of the first half, and they were called for double-technicals right after the halftime buzzer.
Indiana shot 60 percent from the field and led 74-44 at the break. George led the Pacers with 20 points in the first half, including a dynamic two-handed jam through traffic with 21 seconds left in the second quarter. Indiana’s bench scored 27 points before the break and the Pacers made 23 of 29 free throws in the first half.
”You can’t give up 44 points in the second quarter, that’s unacceptable,” Chandler said. ”When you give up 74 points in the first half to a team that doesn’t even score that much, you’re asking for a loss.”
New York continued to fall apart in the second half. Smith was ejected in the third quarter, and the Pacers hit the 100-point mark with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. Indiana’s largest lead was 39 points.
”We’ve got to get it together if we want to accomplish the things that we’ve talked about,” Chandler said. ”We’ve got to play a lot better than this. When you get beat like this, it’s everybody from the top down.”
Notes: Indiana forward Danny Granger is close to a return. The former All-Star has missed the season with a sore left knee. Vogel said he would bring Granger back slowly and as a reserve. … The Pacers shot 61.1 percent in the first quarter and led 30-18. … Indiana center Roy Hibbert fouled out with 8:18 remaining. He finished with eight points and four rebounds. … Indiana committed 21 turnovers. … Indiana improved to 22-5 at home.