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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fast Paced: Indiana Races Past New York, 112-96

The Indiana Pacers made a season-high 12 three pointers in a 112-96 rout of the New York Knicks on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers set season-highs for points in a game, points in the first half (64) and points in a quarter (42 in the second quarter) and fell just two shy of tying the team's NBA record for three pointers made in a game. Indiana led by as much as 26 points and New York never got closer than 15 in the second half. Danny Granger led the Pacers with a career-high 25 points, shooting 8-10 from the field and 3-4 from three point range. Jermaine O'Neal had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots; this was his seventh straight double-double, which places him just two away from the team's NBA record, which he shares with Detlef Schrempf. Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 29 points for New York. The Knicks were shorthanded in the second half, playing without starters Quentin Richardson (back spasms) and Stephon Marbury. Marbury banged his knee and Knicks' Coach Isiah Thomas said that although Marbury could have returned that the game got so out of hand that it did not make sense to risk further damage by putting him back on the court. Marbury finished with six points (shooting 2-6 from the field), four rebounds and one assist in 24 minutes. Eddy Curry had just 10 points, the first time in 12 games that he has scored fewer than 20.

New York led 24-22 after the first quarter, powered by Crawford's 12 points and two assists. Indiana shot just 7-22 (.318) from the field but did chase down six offensive rebounds. Curry made his only field goal attempt but picked up two fouls in just four minutes and spent most of the period on the bench; he never found a good rhythm the rest of the night. Granger led the Pacers with six points, making both of his three point attempts--a sign of things to come.

The Knicks were not fantastic in the first quarter but they certainly gave no indication in the first 12 minutes that they would just completely fall apart in the second quarter. A key play happened at the 4:37 mark of the second quarter, when O'Neal blocked Marbury's ill advised jumper, grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Granger, who dunked to give Indiana a 49-39 lead. Marbury banged his knee against O'Neal during that play; he left the game briefly (six seconds on the clock, a minute or two of actual time) before returning to action.

In his postgame standup, Thomas described his team's second quarter effort simply: "We just caved. They made a run on us and had things going their way and we just came unglued. It's very disappointing." Granger scored 15 points on 4-5 shooting and the Pacers shot 14-21 overall. The Pacers broke down the Knicks' full court press and either scored layups or made three pointers (4-7 during the quarter). Indiana led 64-49 at halftime. Granger and Crawford each had 21 points.

Marbury hit a jumper early in the third quarter but by the 9:17 mark the Knicks were down 20 and Thomas took him out of the game. Thomas went with a lineup of Eddy Curry, David Lee, Jared Jeffries, Nate Robinson and Mardy Collins. That group played hard but was not able to put a dent into Indiana's lead because the Pacers shot 9-17 (.529) for the quarter, including 4-6 on three pointers. Robinson scored 12 points in the period. Indiana led 92-68 by the end of the third quarter and both teams emptied their benches in the final period.

After the game, Thomas spoke about Curry's struggles: "They were very aggressive with him tonight. I just think that we weren't patient enough in terms of being persistent and pounding it in. But they were good. (Jeff) Foster did a good job on him. They double teamed him and kept him off balance." Thomas also felt that Richardson's absence had a big impact: "When you don't have the shooters out on the floor it makes it difficult (to have good spacing for Curry to operate). When Richardson went out it totally changed the look of the way that we try to play and the way that we feed the post. We didn't have enough shooters on the floor and consequently they were able to collapse on him (Curry)."

Thomas believes that Curry's strong play in recent games has affected the way that teams try to guard him and that he will have to adjust to that: "It's going to be a growing experience for him because everybody is going to just start playing rough with him. We depend on the officials to eliminate the rough play. People are going to just go at him and hold him because if they don't do that then they probably won't be able to stop him."

Indiana Coach Rick Carlisle is pleased with the win, the team's second in a row, but does not want his team to become complacent: "Putting two wins together feels good, but we haven't put three together all year. These are must win games for us. You have to get well at home. We'll find out more where we are as a team Sunday, with Utah coming in. There's a reason they have the best record. They are that good."

Notes From Courtside:

Prior to the game, I spoke with New York Assistant Coach Mark Aguirre, a three-time All-Star who averaged 20.0 ppg during his career and was equally adept scoring inside and outside. One of his main duties is tutoring the Knicks' big men about inside play. I mentioned that I've noticed that Curry does not seem to have great hands. Aguirre acknowledged that this has been a problem for Curry but said that after watching film of Curry he realized that the problem is not so much Curry's hands but rather his feet--when Curry's footwork is not correct, he gets off balance and he loses track of the ball because he is trying to establish position and ascertain where his defender is. Aguirre believes that as Curry's footwork improves that his ballhandling will be less of a problem. Aguirre added that proper footwork is the fundamental basis of all post play and that this is the first thing he emphasizes with each of his players. One encouraging sign for Knicks' fans: Curry is definitely an eager pupil. He walked over to Aguirre while we were talking and asked Aguirre to come on to the court and help him. Curry got into early foul trouble in this game and fumbled some balls when he was off balance but he is also coming off a stretch of 11 straight 20 point games. He is the first Knick to do that since Patrick Ewing had a 17 game streak in 1994. Curry averaged 26.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg and shot .595 from the field in the last five of those games. The combination of Aguirre's coaching and Curry's diligence seems to be paying off.


The new synthetic basketball is going to be history in a couple weeks. Prior to the game I had my first real opportunity to handle it (I had previously picked one up briefly off of a rack). The ball has a dead bounce, almost like it sticks to the floor or is underinflated. One of the ball boys told me that you have to dribble it extra hard to have it bounce as high as the leather basketballs do. Although it seems to stick when you bounce it there is also a definite slickness to it and that apparently gets worse as the ball gets wet. I can palm a normal basketball easily and pick it up off of the ground with one hand on top; when I palm the newer ball it slowly slips out of my grip, not because my hand is not big enough but because the surface is slick and my fingertips slide away from the ball. I did not get a chance to shoot the ball but I can understand why players were less than thrilled not only that they had no say in this change but also with the particular product that the NBA selected.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:28 AM


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At Saturday, December 16, 2006 5:01:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

I hope you got over your headache after watching the Bricks play.

At Saturday, December 16, 2006 7:20:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

Aguirre should have been better than he was. But he was always into it with Motta.

At Sunday, December 17, 2006 1:34:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yes, after the first quarter things got ugly for the Knicks (at least there wasn't a brawl).

Aguirre had a very good career, putting up big numbers in Dallas and sacrificing his stats to win a couple titles in Detroit. I interviewed him at length for an article that I am doing about him, so I'll discuss his career in greater depth in that piece.

At Sunday, December 17, 2006 2:23:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Ok. Look forward to that.

At Sunday, December 17, 2006 5:02:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Looking forward to the Aguirre article. I think he is a very overlooked player.

At Sunday, December 17, 2006 11:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I did an article a couple years ago for Basketball Digest called "Overlooked and Underrated," listing four forwards who I felt deserved more recognition: Maurice Stokes (subsequently inducted into the HoF), Roger Brown, Scottie Pippen and Mark Aguirre. I also mentioned Aguirre in passing in my recent NBC article about evaluating playoff scorers. This was my first opportunity to speak with him and he had some very interesting comments about his playing career and about how he coaches post players.


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