Knicks hope to get on track vs. Pacers
After dropping their first home game of the season, the Indiana Pacers venture to the perhaps even friendly confines of Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night as they face a New York Knicks team that has lost five of seven to open the season.
The Knicks are, however, coming off their second home win of the season, a 115-96 victory over the cross-town Brooklyn Nets on Monday night at MSG.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the win, leading seven Knicks in double-figure scoring. Frank Ntilikina added 16 points and Enes Kanter had 15 off the bench in the win, which followed a dreadful loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday, when Kevin Durant had 41 points and spurred a huge fourth quarter.
"I think Tim has always had the reputation that he is just a gunner and so I want to break that stereotype of him," New York head coach David Fizdale said. "And to be an elite player in this league, you have to make other people better."
One of the league's budding elite players, Indiana's Victor Oladipo struggled in his team's first home loss of the year on Monday against Portland. The Trail Blazers outscored the Pacers 32-24 in the fourth quarter, and 58-44 for the second half, in a 103-93 win.
Oladipo, who is averaging 22 points on the year, had 21 in the game, but shot just 9 of 24 from the field and Indiana shot just 41 percent as a team.
"Even the open looks weren't going in," Oladipo said. "It was just a tough night offensively. I think defensively we did a pretty decent job. We made it tough on them."
Not tough enough, apparently, as the Blazers shot 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range.
But it was the offense that failed the Pacers on Monday, as they scored 93 or fewer points for the second time this year. They had scored 116 and 119 wins in back-to-back wins the two previous games, and a season-high 132 against the Nets on Oct. 20.
"We're getting there," Indiana point guard Darren Collison said. "We're starting to become a really good offensive team and Nate has done a good job telling us to continue to move the ball. We just missed some easy shots."
Like the Pacers, who lit up the Nets, it took Brooklyn to break New York from its scoring funk.
The Knicks averaged 100 points in their previous three games, but Fizdale's lineup tinkering led to the win over Brooklyn. In the loss to the Warriors, Fizdale inserted rookie center Mitchell Robinson into the starting lineup in Kanter's stead, and also started Damyean Dotson and Noah Vonleh.
"It's about building consistency with these groups," Fizdale told reporters. "I don't want to be jumping from game to game trying to hunt for wins. I'm trying to find consistency in combinations right now."
After the win, the Knicks might just stick with what works.
"It takes a few games here and there to see a body of work to tell you something," Fizdale said. "I don't want to jump around and start game-to-game, moving the lineup to match up for a game. When we get further in the season, maybe I will. Now I want to see if I can build some chemistry and see what clicks for the team."