No one really challenged these assumptions until the last week when the Indiana Pacers made it their mission to deny the Knicks everything they have held dear to deny them their very identity as a freewheeling high scoring 3 point shooting juggernaut.
The Knicks lost it all Saturday night looking tame and ordinary in an 82 71 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as the Pacers took a 2 1 lead in this second round playoff series.
When the final buzzer sounded 15 Knicks and an assortment of coaches and support staff trudged away all blank stares and grim expressions.
The Knicks had converted just 35.2 percent of their field goal attempts their low point in the series with season lows in 3 pointers made (3) and attempted (11). They had flirted with the franchise playoff record for fewest points (67) a threshold they did not cross until Kenyon Martin dunked with 1 minute 39 seconds left.
We just didn t have any offensive pop for some reason said Coach Mike Woodson so we got to figure that out.
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points but he was held without a field goal in the fourth quarter and was just 6 for 16 for the game. The Knicks starting backcourt produced just 6 points all from Raymond Felton who went 1 for 8 from the field. Iman Shumpert missed 7 of his 10 attempts. J. R. Smith fighting through illness nevertheless took 12 shots the second most on the team and made just four.
For the second time in three games the Pacers beat the Knicks up inside winning the rebounding game by 53 40 while scoring twice as many second chance points (20 10).
Roy Hibbert dominated at both ends of the court finishing with a game high 24 points and 12 rebounds again outworking Tyson Chandler who is having a forgettable series. Chandler had three blocks Saturday but finished with just 9 points and 5 rebounds.
Game 4 is Tuesday also at Bankers Life Fieldhouse where the Pacers are 4 0 in the postseason.
The Knicks set an N.B.A. record by hitting 891 3 pointers this season every game becoming a shooting display. The Pacers were the N.B.A. s best team at preventing 3 pointers makes and attempts. They are winning this clash of styles.
Our guys usually do what you emphasize Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. We knew that if we take the 3 ball away from this team they re going to struggle to score.
The Knicks were never really in the game falling behind by 10 points in the second quarter by 14 in the third and by 16 in the fourth. Their rallies were rare and short lived as one shot after another clanged off the rim.
Felton converted a 3 point play early in the fourth quarter cutting the deficit to 9 points but the Knicks then went 7 minutes 43 seconds without making a shot from the field.
Defensively we was there Anthony said. Offensively we wasn t.
For the second time in three games Anthony fell into foul trouble while tangling with the Pacers big men. He picked up his second third and fourth fouls in a stretch of 3 24 in the third quarter the first two while guarding David West and the last against Hibbert.
The Knicks need big bodies in this series so they were happy to see Amar e Stoudemire back even in a cameo role after a two month layoff following knee surgery. He scored 7 points in eight minutes the shortest stint of his career regular season or playoffs. He did provide a momentary thrill by hitting a pull up 3 pointer at the third quarter buzzer.
I was in better shape than I thought I was Stoudemire said adding I wanted to be able to dominate but it was my first game back. It was a matter of getting out there and seeing how I d feel. I felt great tonight and it s a great sign.
It was Stoudemire s 1st game since March 7 and just his 30th of the season. Expectations were modest and he met them.
Playing off the bench for the first time in his postseason career Stoudemire started the second quarter and promptly missed his first shot a 7 foot fadeaway jumper. But he came back with a powerful dunk moments later taking a feed from Pablo Prigioni and rising quickly to the rim celebrating with a mighty Yaaahhh His first stint lasted just 4 29.
If anything the Knicks had more concern over Smith who was mired in a 15 for 57 shooting slump before falling ill. Smith s absence at the morning shootaround aroused some suspicion given his reputation for late night activity. Woodson said Smith had a 102 degree fever although his condition had apparently improved by the evening.
Smith looked dazed on the bench and a bit lethargic on the court which on this night made him no different than most of his teammates.
We couldn t put the ball in the basket Felton said adding You hate it it makes you angry makes you frustrated. I think our defense was great our offense just couldn t put the ball in the basket.
Amar e Stoudemire had played fewer than 20 minutes in a playoff game only once in his career and it was because of an injury. He played 18 minutes against the Boston Celtics on April 19 2011 his game cut short by an injured back. Stoudemire also had not played fewer than 16 minutes in any game this season. Before Saturday the fewest minutes Stoudemire had ever played in a game was 11 on three occasions.