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Indiana Pacers hold New York Knicks to 89 points in Game 4 in best defensive postseason outing



INDIANAPOLIS — After a poor start to the regular season on the defensive end of the court, the Indiana Pacers consistently made progress when it came to getting stops. They were proud of the strides they made on the less glamorous end of the floor — after the All-Star break, they ranked 18th.

That’s still below average, but it was a significant jump from the bottom-five defense that the Pacers had before the break. They were inconsistent, but higher peaks and less frequent valleys changed the trajectory of Indiana’s regular season. During their postseason push, they won a few games on the back of their defense.

On Sunday, for the first time in the postseason, Indiana did that again. They suffocated the New York Knicks in Game 4, and it led to a 32-point victory. The Pacers offense was good, scoring 121 points. Their defense was unbelievable, holding the Knicks to 89.

That 89 number jumps off the page. During the regular season, the blue and gold only conceded fewer than 100 points three times, and they never allowed less than 90. The three teams they held under triple digits in the regular season all ranked 15th or worse in offensive rating. New York finished seventh.

Yet the Pacers shut them down on Sunday afternoon, and it helped them even up their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. “The energy,” Pacers guard T.J. McConnell said of the keys to defensive success. “I thought we brought great energy from start to finish. Just tried to make them work.”

It was just the sixth time since the calendar year 2020 that the Pacers held a team under 90 points. They were active, connected, and followed a game plan. After New York ripped them up in the first two games of the series, Indiana bounced back on the defensive end.

In Game 1, the Pacers allowed 121 points. That number climbed to 130 in Game 2. But they limited the Knicks to 106 in Game 3 before their masterpiece on defense in Game 4. As the series has progressed, Indiana’s defense has only gotten better.

“We had better concentration and focus. Our habits were better,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of his team after Game 4. He was happy with how his group started the battle on that end of the floor, and they never let up.

They have adjusted throughout the series. After struggling with Jalen Brunson early in the series, Aaon Nesmith has defended him of late and done a better job. The mixing up of other matchups in the backcourt has been successful. Indiana has applied full court pressure. Their plans have been effective.

It has led to success, and that defense was at its best in Game 4. The Knicks shot 33.7%, a season-low allowed for Indiana by far. The previous low was 37.5%. New York shot 18.9% from long range, the second-lowest percentage they have conceded. Indiana forced the Knicks into 12 turnovers, too. It was a dominant defensive performance.

That’s how the Pacers won Game 4 by 32 points and evened up the series. They were excellent on defense, an area that they rarely dominate. They are now right back in the best-of-seven and can take a lead in the series on Tuesday night.

“Just showing our hands. Understanding that those guys are elite, especially Jalen, at finding angles, shot fakes, getting you up in the air, drawing fouls,” Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton said of what his team did well defensively in the game. He was pleased that the Pacers finished possessions with rebounding all night.

It all played a part in Indiana getting it done. And now they head back to New York with a best-of-three vs New York in front of them.

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