Here I am just drownin' in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train.
Yes, that's a lyric from the crappy 1990s Soul Asylum song, "Runaway Train", but it also applies to the Pacers in last night's 105-79 Game 2 loss to the Knicks. A promising start to the third quarter had erased a 13-point first half deficit, and Indiana seemed to be back in control of the game until a 12+ minute stretch where everything spiraled out of control... just like a runaway train going the "wrong way on a one-way track" (OK, I'll stop now).
For whatever reason, the game started disintegrating for the Blue and Gold following an odd timeout by Frank Vogel with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter, and Indiana leading 64-62. They had taken their first lead on a Lance Stephenson three-pointer about a minute prior to that, and had outscored the Knicks by seven in the third period to that point. I went back and charted each offensive play during New York's game-sealing 30-2 run:
3:04 Vogel strangely calls a full timeout after the Pacers crossed the timeline following a Carmelo Anthony miss from three-point range. During the timeout, Vogel subs in Jeff Pendergraph for Roy Hibbert. When asked in the post game by Mike Wells of the Star why he chose to take that TO, Vogel said that's what he "usually" does if they have the ball before the under-three timeout so he "can set something up". I'm not a big momentum guy, but if such a thing exists, the Pacers clearly seemed to lose it at that point.
Out of the timeout, Paul George can't handle a George Hill pass while coming off of a screen. Anthony's driving layup on the other end ties the score at 64. (Turnover)
2:25 David West misses around the rim - a rarity for him.
2:08 After coming over late and fouling Anthony on a dunk, Pendergraph compounds the problem by setting a moving screen on JR Smith. (Turnover)
1:30 Hill loses the ball as he is trying to dribble trough a double team. Raymond Felton scoops it up and throws it off the backboard for Kenyon Martin on the ensuing fastbreak. (Turnover)
1:14 Pendergraph comes off the floor for Hibbert after the 7-0 Knicks spurt, and the Pacers put the ball back inside (which they should've continued to do). West is fouled by Anthony. He connects on both free throws.
0:41 West gets a good look from about 18-feet, but can't connect. It's the last shot the Pacers get of the quarter, as Jason Kidd taps a miss to Tyson Chandler for a dunk with :02 left to put the Knicks up 72-66.
11:48 George misses a long, contested three-point shot from the top of the arc.
11:12 Hibbert has an open look at a ten-footer on a nice kick from D.J. Augustin, but it's long off the back rim.
10:39 Hibbert misses a short jump hook, but Tyler Hansbrough is fouled on the putback attempt. Hansbrough misses both free throws.
10:09 The Garden is finally awake, and the Knicks' defense has the Pacers scrambling. George tosses it to Hill on the baseline for a three with the shot clock winding down. Hill, who doesn't even have time to land, has to catch the ball in the air and throw it up (sort of like a tip-in attempt in a game of 21). He misses.
9:07 This sequence was likely the knockout blow. Hill misses a wide open three-pointer (no NY defender even in the 212 area code - see below) after Kidd loses him. Anthony calmly steps up to swish a three-pointer from the left wing to push the Knicks' lead to 16 at the 8:28 mark.
8:28 Chandler commits a foul on the floor for holding Hibbert. Augustin gets trapped 28 feet from the basket with just :04 on the shot clock, and George is forced to take a fall-away three as time expires.
7:38 George misses a rushed three-point attempt with :17 on the shot clock. Reggie Miller comments, "This is not the Pacers' game..." A Carmelo Anthony plus-one pushes the New York lead to 21.
7:10 Hill is again stripped on a drive to the basket. It looked clean on the replay. (Turnover)
6:33 Lance Stephenson, who was forcing the issue all game long, also rushes a three-point attempt from the wing (:16 on the shot clock). Hibbert is shoved in the back by Chandler on the rebound, and Chandler is whistled for a technical foul for his animated reaction. However, Hill missed the technical free throw, and then gets stripped under the basket after penetrating the Knicks' defense. (Turnover)
6:02 Ben Hansbrough and Orlando Johnson are inserted into the game as the Knicks' lead balloons to 24. This is officially the white flag moment for Vogel. Gerald Green, also part of the emptied bench, misses a runner.
5:10 Hansbrough (the benchier version) misses a wing three-pointer, but his brother (less benchy) is fouled under the basket. Tyler makes both free throws to officially end the Knicks' 30-2 run.
It wasn't until the 3:11 mark that the Pacers made their first field goal of the fourth quarter - an Orlando Johnson three-pointer. They were outscored 33-13 in the final period.
THE FINAL TALLY
Over 12:17 - from the 3:28 mark of the third quarter to the 3:11 mark of the fourth quarter, here is the Pacers' stat line:
4 points, 0-12 FG (0-7 3-pt FG), 4-7 FT, 4 turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Knicks scored 33 points on 14-21 shooting (3-5 3-pt FG) to turn a 64-62 deficit into a 98-68 lead.
It's important to remember, however, that the Pacers were able to split. A 30-2 run and a 26-point thrashing still only counts for one win. Indiana now gets to head home for Saturday's Game 3, where a raucous atmosphere likely awaits them. That said, last night was a missed opportunity which slipped away during an historic quarter-long stretch of futility that we hopefully won't see from them again.
Game 2 of the 2013 playoff series is tonight in New York.