Hill’s Absence And Copeland’s Emergence Keep Knicks Alive

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NEW YORK – Here’s the thing about the Indiana Pacers: Their bench stinks.

They have the league’s best defense, a terrific starting lineup, and a pretty smart coach. But their lack of depth (or just one guy off the bench they can rely on for consistent production) is a major problem. There’s a reason why only one lineup played more minutes than Indiana’s starting group in the regular season.

With one starter out and another in foul trouble, the Pacers’ Achilles heel was on full display in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday, an 85-75 victory for the New York Knicks that sends the series back to Indianapolis for Game 6 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The Pacers now look a lot more vulnerable than they did just hours before Game 5, not just because their 3-1 series lead is now 3-2, but because starting point guard George Hill is out with a concussion he suffered in Game 4 on Tuesday. Hill’s status for Game 6 is unknown, but he must pass the NBA’s concussion testing before he can play again. (And if you read that link, you’ll probably guess that he won’t play again in this series, no matter who wins Saturday.)

D.J. Augustin, who started in Hill’s place on Thursday, is a decent back-up point guard and came up with a huge performance (16 points, 4-for-5 from 3-point range) in Game 1 of this series. But at 40 minutes per game, he’s a big step down from Hill. He scored 12 points on nine shots on Thursday, but didn’t record a single assist in 39 minutes.

Hill’s 26 points helped the Pacers win an ugly Game 4. And more important than his scoring is his ability to get his team into its offense. With one less point guard to call on, Paul George was needed to bring the ball up the floor at times, and the Pacers struggled to get much going offensively. They shot 36 percent and committed 19 turnovers (12 of them live balls), making things even worse by shooting 19-for-33 from the free throw line.

Hill’s absence was felt more on defense, where his size and tenacity has been a key to the Pacers’ ability to defend the Knicks’ pick-and-roll attack. Raymond Felton had a little more space on those pick-and-rolls in Game 5, with Augustin as his primary defender. And Indiana’s league-best defense was further compromised when Roy Hibbert picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter and his fourth foul early in the third.

That, in part, allowed the Knicks to awake from their offensive slumber, which is a scary thing for Indiana going forward. Mike Woodson‘s use of his own bench was another key.

Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire each played less than seven minutes, and neither saw the floor in the second half. Chris Copeland, who provided a (too-little, too-late) spark in Game 4, played a postseason-high 19:25, giving the Knicks some much-needed 3-point shooting and scoring 13 points.

“Copeland just has a knack for scoring,” Tyson Chandler said. “Anytime you get him in the game, he’s going to make something happen offensively. He’s been doing it all year. He came up huge for us tonight.”

After reaching for answers and coming up empty in Game 4, Woodson found something that worked on Thursday. The Knicks barely scored a point per possession, but that was plenty enough against what the Pacers were doing on the other end of the floor. J.R. Smith (4-for-11) didn’t shoot quite as poorly as he had been over the previous six games, and the New York bench outscored the Indiana bench 35-10.

Having a good bench isn’t necessarily about the points it scores, but rather the drop-off suffered when one or more starters are resting. And while the Pacers weren’t making any excuses after Game 5 – “I don’t think it has anything to do with it,” Frank Vogel said of Hill’s absence – the numbers speak for themselves.

In the regular season, Indiana’s regular starting lineup (with Hill at PG) scored 108.6 points per 100 possessions, while all other lineups scored just 98.5. That’s like the difference between the league’s third best offense and the league’s third worst offense. In this series, their regular starting lineup is a plus-21 in 92 minutes, while all other lineups are now a minus-28 in 148 minutes.

That’s a big drop-off. And with Hill likely out at least another game, Indiana must find a way to nudge that minus-28 closer to zero on Saturday. Otherwise, this series is coming back to New York for Game 7.

36 Comments

  1. website says:

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  2. theholyspectator says:

    altho it would be a wild game 7 finale in ny, realistically speakin indy will clean up their act and win game 6 at home. knicks arent a dominating team where they can walk into the opposing teams backyward and win there..to be a great nba team and win a title you gotta be able to protect homecourt or steal a couple games on the opposing court. indy has won a game there…so i expect for indy to win tonight, if they lose tonight i have no idea who would win game 7…

  3. hecklerandkoch says:

    Pacers in 6

  4. LAsh` says:

    if the worlds crumble people will blame the heat I am so tired of people blaming the heat for everything this is old now stop wining like a baby and play the darn game when everyone else does smething blame the heat really

  5. Manny says:

    Indiana have dropped too many games with bellow 80 points and score a few 100 plus points throughout the 2013 playoffs. It seems like some nights they just don’t feel like playing ball.

  6. OctoPPus says:

    i think refs must whistle more fouls to avoid injuries – they overlook so much moments

  7. I agree 2.. that Series should of been closed out. Knickz R tryin to make a come back. GO HEAT!!

  8. Muhammed (Not a terrorist) says:

    Game 7: Knicks def Pacers to face Heat

    Knicks have a deep bench that can win this series
    if they utilized them correctly. Get the team involved.

    5: Tyson, Marcus
    4: Amare’, Kenyon,
    3: Carmelo, Copeland, Novak
    2: Shumpert, J.R, Quentin
    1: Felton, J-Kidd, Prig

  9. Pacers monkey pocket love says:

    Lovely game though the butterfly looked like a spring on the time stamp. One more down to go on the star trek wouldn’t it be that way in the seventh circle. And what is an NBA?? Gretos from the nebulon

  10. vincent says:

    george hill might miss another game because of a concussion i think the knicks gonna force game 7 because new york dont give in easily

  11. Freida says:

    Wow!! Both teams look ugly. As long as Melo doesn’t hog the ball, they can beat the Pacers. But still, go Miami Heat!! The comment about Riley having voodoo dolls is hilarious!!

  12. max says:

    I like Amare as a person and wish him nothing but the best. I did many fan reports about his abilities before the Knicks spent all that money then added to their team another one in Carmelo Anthony. Both players are great shooters. Amare rolling to the Basket and Anthony knocking down jump shots. But neither PLAYER will or can do rebounds and for sure NEVER WILL get mixtrying to put back a missed offense shot. They each are a player that says “get me the ball and let me look great byputting it in the basket” GREAT! But some players has to be able to play defense (without fouling out). The only decent player the Knicks have rebounding is Chamers, I said 3 years ago, the Knicks were being fooled. Nash helped Amare do the “pic and roll” what else can Amare do? Well he can nowmake most of his FREE THROWS, and C. Anthony is just another one that says go get me the ball and then I can shoot it, but if I try to play defense I will foul out. So Knicks only have 3 that can try to work on defense. Amare,Anthony (highly paid) SHOOTERS ONLY!!!

  13. Andrejs says:

    This Knicks-Pacers series, I agree, has been the ugliest series so far in the playoffs. Both teams have been shooting terribly. If J.R. Smith was playing like a good NBA player, the Knicks would be on the other side of the stick. Without Chris Copeland’s explosion last night, the Knicks would be out of the playoffs before the semi finals. He tallied 13 points and 4 rebounds. With a player that doesn’t play like that every night, the Knicks were emotionally pumped and carried the momentum for the W.

  14. Shawn says:

    Copeland is a spark off the bench. His energy, enthusiasm, and humility is a joy to watch. Kudos to the young man. I think he helped the Knicks a great deal to get where he is. it’s the little things…

  15. reposted. says:

    blaming the refs? tyson chandler was in foul trouble at exactly the same time… bad calls were going both ways… knicks just played a better game then indy did last night. Hibbert fouls with his body on almost half the plays he’s defending a shot…. it just took a couple games for the refs to realize he;s taking advantage of how they were calling the game. No excuses just play ball.

  16. reaaly? says:

    blaming the refs? tyson chandler was in foul trouble at exactly the same time… bad calls were going both ways… knicks just played a better game then indy did last night. Hibbert fouls with his body on almost half the plays he’s defending a shot…. it just took a couple games for the refs to realize he;s taking advantage of how they were calling the game. No excuses just play ball.

  17. eris says:

    Woodson is a smart coach but sometimes he’s a bit stubborn. Hope he can maximize the bench/whoever is playing well for the night…

  18. newyorksteelo says:

    I said it before, and I will say it again. The Knicks are by far the better team and way more talented. They just need to believe it and dedicate themselves to what needs to be done to win this series. Knicks have made huge leaps and bounds in the past 2 years to get to where they are today, and will only continue to get better. Best thing the Knicks ever did was acquire Carmelo Anthony. A huge reason for them being where they are today after more than a decade of loosing seasons. Mark my words, you will see them in a future Eastern Conference Finals, if and only if Indiana gets lucky this year.

  19. Cesar says:

    I am sure that that Knicks will win this series and make a hard series with HEAT. Go NY! GO NY! GO!

  20. JimD54 says:

    it wasn’t Copeland emergence that won it for the Knicks, it was the refs putting Hilbert in four trouble….. Just another case of NBA refs stretching a series, and as we saw last night they know just how to do it.,,,NBA refs can make a high school team win the championship……

    • thunda0204gmail.com says:

      Yu sound stupid the knicks had double fouls then pacers so how the refs stretch a series

  21. Davro83 says:

    The Knicks have a brilliant team. They have so much depth on the bench, compared to Indiana who have no one. Indiana starting 5 is excellent, but no key bench players. Knicks need to use their bench and they will win. Wear out Indiana. Especially if Hill is out again. Get copeland, novak, prigioni, camby involved. Limit JR Smith if his shots arent dropping. Rebound the ball. The Knicks know what it takes to win, they have Chandler and Kidd. They dont give up. You need experience with the playoffs. I can see Indianas youth and inexperience cause them some trouble next game. It will be very tight in Indiana. Cant wait.

  22. Gil Mascarinas says:

    the indy’s must close this series tomorrow or they will never face miami to the eastern finals……

  23. Fuuu says:

    who knew if the Knicks spread the floor, would do much better offense? weird…

    Its like the better runs they had the regular season was at the start when they had a big men who could hits three’s like the Sheed or in the end when they had melo has the big men and Cople or Novak to spread the floor.

  24. EyronFigures says:

    the pacers will end it up on game 6 at indianapolis:)

    heat is waiting for their opponent in the ECF.. Let’s Go Heat! 8 more wins and the Heat will once again the NBA CHAMPS!

  25. Someone says:

    i swear Pat Riley has a collection of voodoo dolls…smh

  26. J says:

    knicks only won cause hill was out copeland cant do that every night smith is inconsistant and there an old team now i like the knicks but the pacers are better and they will prove it when they win the series with there d

  27. Bespoken says:

    I think that Cope’s rebound from those missed 3s and layup shift the momentum of the game. Clearly the spark of the game.

  28. zabuza says:

    This time knicks was lucky… In game 6 Indiana will advance to next round

  29. Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

    Ugliest series ever