Can a win be disappointing?
On Thursday January 10, the Pacers beat the Knicks by a score of 81-76, but it feels like they got away with one.
The New York Knicks played without Carmelo Anthony, who served the one-game suspension he received as a result of his January 7 altercation with Kevin Garnett in Madison Square Garden's arena tunnel and parking garage.
The Knicks were also without starting point guard Raymond Felton, who is nursing a broken right pinkie finger.
With two starters down, one of them the second-highest scoring player in the league, this was a game the Pacers should have won. Especially considering that the substitutes for those starters combined for 18 points, 11 or so less than Anthony alone would likely have produced.
If Anthony or Felton had been able to play, the Knicks probably would have gotten the win.
That's not all.
The Knicks came into the game against the Pacers averaging 13 three-pointers per game on 29 attempts. Thursday night they had plenty of attempts (20) but only connected on four of them, good for a dismal 20 percent.
If the Knicks had had a slightly-better-than-wretched performance from the field, the Pacers would have likely lost the game.
But the Knicks' poor offensive performance wasn't the only factor that led to their defeat; the Pacers' defense played a role too.
Paul George led the way with six steals, one block and eight defensive rebounds. George's length and athleticism allowed him to obstruct the passing lanes with incredible quickness all game long.
It almost looked unfair, really. The passing lanes were open until after the unsuspecting opposing player threw the ball into them, then out would come one of George's rangy arms to poke it away.
If anyone watching the game didn't already appreciate the kind of defensive player that Paul George is and can become if he is able to perform up to his potential more consistently, they do now.
Perhaps more encouragingly, George led the team in scoring for a second consecutive night, possibly showing the beginnings of a newfound consistency in his offensive game.
Not only did he have another healthy offensive output, many of his points were clutch. Seven of his 25 came during a 13-0 fourth-quarter run that all but decided the game in favor of the Pacers. His final line of 25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 steals is elite level.
However, Paul George's performance was the only positive takeaway for a Pacers' offense that shot a miserable 39.2 percent from the field.
George Hill's lackluster performance was forgivable as he continues to battle through bronchitis, but David West's offensive impact was again conspicuous by its absence as he only managed six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Roy Hibbert's offensive efforts were again inconsequential, but we can't be too hard on him this time as he only played 19 minutes because of back spasms. The spasms didn't stop him from serving up a defensive posterization on an attempted Tyson Chandler dunk, though.
The Pacers have now won 12 of 15 games and nine straight at home—their longest home winning streak since the 2002-03 season. However, unless every Pacer not named Paul George can break free of their offensive drudgery, their lack of scoring will eventually start costing them games.
There's no denying that beating the Heat and the Knicks in consecutive games is a huge feather in the cap of this Pacers team.
But all the Pacers proved against the Knicks on Thursday night was that their offense as a whole shows no sign of its ineptitude abating and that they can beat a Knicks team without two of its starters, one of whom is the second-leading scorer in the league.
That's far from the decisive victory it could have been.
I'm sure Pacers' fans will take it, nonetheless.
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