If ‘frenzied’ Pacers don’t get out of their own way, Knicks will end their

For a moment during the third quarter of their Game 5 flop on Tuesday, it looked like the Indiana Pacers might make things interesting. It was early in the third quarter, and Myles Turner had made 3s on three consecutive possessions, cutting a New York Knicks lead that had been as large as 18 points down to seven. After Knicks star Jalen Brunson missed a contested layup, the Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard pushed the ball the other way. Indiana had numbers, and it had a chance to make it a two-possession game.

Had that possession ended with a dunk or another 3, it wouldn’t have been out of character. The Pacers, the second-most efficient offensive team evercan pile up points in a hurry. But that was not the kind of night it was at Madison Square Garden. Unable to find a quick bucket in transition, Nembhard found himself running a pick-and-roll against a set defense. He crossed over to reject the screen, Knicks wing Donte DiVincenzo swiped at the ball and he lost it out of bounds.

Shortly thereafter, with Indiana down by 10, Turner lost the ball trying to isolate against Josh Hart. On the Pacers’ next possession, Pascal Siakam committed a carrying violation. These gaffes, plus a misguided jump pass from Obi Toppin that went out of bounds, fueled the 19-1 Knicks run that put the game out of reach.

Indiana’s 18 turnovers were far from its only problem in the 121-91 loss, but they compounded the damage that New York did on the glass: The Knicks attempted 101 field goal attempts to the Pacers’ 72. Postgame, Tyrese Haliburton said that he felt the team was “a little frenzied” and that a lot of the turnovers were “self-inflicted.”

Sloppiness is not typically an issue for Indiana; one of the defining characteristics of this team is its ability to play a fast, free-flowing, pass-heavy style while maintaining one of the league’s lowest turnover rates. Despite coughing the ball up on about a fifth of its possessions (19.6%) in Game 5, Indiana has an 11.4% turnover rate in the playoffs. (For context, the Boston Celtics’ 12.1% turnover rate was the lowest in the regular season.)

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle called the loss “very embarrassing.” He lamented their “poor decisions,” adding that “things can snowball when you’re not doing the little things well.” They led for much of the first quarter, but lost it when they turned the ball over on four straight possessions.

Carlisle called three timeouts in the first quarter and two more in the second, but could not settle Indiana down for an extended stretch. Repeatedly, the Pacers lost the ball:

They squandered transition opportunities:

They threw the ball away:

They committed offensive fouls:

And there was even a travel by Haliburton, who was called for only four traveling violations in the entire regular season:

It is a credit to New York that Indiana got so discombobulated. The Knicks inserted Miles “Deuce” McBride into the starting lineup in place of Precious Achiuwa, and, in addition to the obvious spacing upgrade, they benefited from McBride’s pesky defense. It certainly wasn’t the first time that an opponent had picked up Haliburton full-court and faceguarded him when he was off the ball, but Indiana didn’t handle it well. It didn’t help that New York’s outrageous offensive rebounding limited the Pacers’ transition game, which put extra pressure on their halfcourt offense. “There are a lot of things that are connected to a lot of things,” Carlisle told reporters, stressing that they needed to do some basic stuff — “running hard, spacing, finding bodies, rebounding the ball” — much better.

After Indiana ran New York off the floor at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Game 4, Josh Hart told reporters“This wasn’t us,” and Isaiah Hartenstein told reporters that the Knicks needed to “get back to playing our basketball” out of respect for their fans. They responded on Tuesday, and now it’s the Pacers who must figure out how to play to their identity. They can also say that Game 5  “wasn’t us” — they had a higher turnover rate only twice in the regular season and a worse offensive rating just once — but that doesn’t matter unless they can summon a winning combination of pace and poise on Friday. With their season on the line, they have to get out of their own way.

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