The New York Knicks came alive in front of their home crowd and avoided elimination by beating the Pacers 85-75, sending their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series back to Indiana for Game Six.
Led by 28 points from league scoring champion Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks played with desperation and fierce determination on defense to narrow the deficit to 3-2 in their best-of-seven series, which resumes on Sunday (NZ Time)
New York forced 19 turnovers and registered a dozen steals, double that of the Pacers, answering the Madison Square Garden chant of ‘‘Defence, Defence.’’
‘‘We played with a sense of urgency tonight, knowing what was at stake,’’ said Anthony. ‘‘We played like we really wanted it. We had to win and we went out there and did that.’’
The Knicks’ bench outscored the undermanned Pacers 35-10 with JR Smith coming out of a slump to contribute 13 points and 29-year-old rookie Chris Copeland adding 13 points and a dose of high energy.
Playing without starting point guard George Hill, who suffered a concussion in Indiana’s Game Four victory, the Pacers were led by Paul George’s 23 points with David West adding 17.
Should the Pacers fail to finish off the Knicks with a victory at home on Sunday, the series would return to New York’s Madison Square Garden for a deciding Game Seven on Wednesday.
New York coach Mike Woodson said winning in Indianapolis was a tough task as his team went 0-4 there this season, but the challenge could be met with the defensive intensity the Knicks brought in Friday's do-or-die game.
‘‘It was our defense,’’ Woodson said about the key to Game Five. ‘‘We didn’t give up a lot of second-chance buckets, we made it tough for them to score.
‘‘It was a total team effort and we’re going to have to have that same effort when we play at Conseco Fieldhouse.’’
Woodson gave special mention to Copeland, who had been used sparingly in the series, but gave New York a spark by hitting 3-of-4 from beyond the three-point line and grabbing a pair of steals.
‘‘Cope was big for us with the way he played tonight,’’ Woodson said.
New York started fast in a physical first half, scoring the first seven points of the game. They led by four after the first quarter and by 40-34 at halftime.
The Knicks extended their lead to 10 after three quarters, carrying a 67-57 advantage to the fourth quarter.
Indiana were hurt by poor shooting from the foul line, making just 19-of-33 attempts.
‘‘That was just one of those nights,’’ said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. ‘‘Every team in basketball has a night like this when you just don’t knock them down.
‘‘To me that’s an encouraging thing. If we make our free throws, it’s a different ball game.’’
Vogel would also not use Hill’s absence as an excuse.
‘‘I don’t think that has anything to do with it,’’ he said. ‘‘I think we’ve got plenty to beat the Knicks, with or without George Hill.’’
Pacers forward Paul George said he and his team mates had to match the intensity shown by the Knicks.
‘‘They came out with a lot of energy and upped their pressure,’’ said George. ‘‘We didn’t play well.
‘‘We got to come out and play like there’s pressure. Approach Game Six as a desperation game.’’