Pacers search for defense as trip ends at Knicks
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The Indiana Pacers are feeling the absence of center Myles Turner in the low post as opponents have been constantly getting to the rim in the past three games.
Turner has been ruled out again (sore right shoulder) for Friday's visit to the New York Knicks. The Pacers are hoping to solve some recent defensive issues despite his absence at center in the finale of their season-high five-game road trip.
Turner was already dealing with a broken nose and wearing a facemask after getting hit by Atlanta's John Collins on Dec. 31. He played 26 minutes last Friday when the Pacers opened the trip with a 119-116 overtime win at Chicago on Victor Oladipo's game-winning 3-pointer.
In the past three games without Turner's rim protection, Indiana allowed an average of 123.7 points as opponents shot 54.2 percent (131 of 276), including 62.7 percent (64 of 102) on shots as close as 5 feet from the rim. The Pacers gave up 136 points in the paint in this stretch.
"It just looked like we were gassed tonight," Indiana coach Nate McMillan said after a 135-108 loss at Boston on Wednesday. "We didn't win a quarter. We knew they would come out fast and they did. We weren't able to establish anything defensively against the group.
"We know we are better than that. Of course, we're missing the anchor of our defense, but we've just got to continue to work."
Domantas Sabonis, who has started the past three games, will likely start at center again.
While the Pacers split the first two games of Turner's absence, they turned in their worst performance against Boston. The Pacers allowed a season-high 56.8 percent shooting, trailed by 31 and gave up their most points in a regulation game since a 140-112 loss at Denver on Jan. 12, 2017.
Indiana's defense has been suspect throughout this trip, although the Pacers head to New York with 14 wins in their last 18 games and the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers (27-14) have allowed at least 115 points in a season-high four consecutive games.
"Teams are just picking us apart with the defense we're playing," Indiana forward Thaddeus Young said. "I think the last three or four games in the second half we've been giving up 30-point-plus quarters. That has to stop."
New York (10-31) is returning from a 1-5 road trip that ended with Tuesday's 122-95 loss at Golden State.
"I feel like everybody understands we're building something here, but we're all competitors and want to fight, so losing sucks," said New York guard Tim Hardaway Jr. "It's a (lousy) feeling. You have to take it on the chin and live with the results and try not to let it happen."
New York is 2-15 in its last 17 games since a 136-134 overtime win at home over Milwaukee on Dec. 1. The Knicks also are on a six-game home losing streak. Friday's game starts a stretch in which they play 15 of their next 21 at home.
"We got a long ways to go," Knicks coach David Fizdale said.
"We got to learn how to play complete games. Hopefully, over the second half, I expect us to continue to get better. I expect the young guys to be a little more familiar and, hopefully, we can get more trust between us. We go through waves of trust offensively. I expect to keep improving."
Rookie forward Kevin Knox, who scored 12 points Tuesday, will be in the starting lineup again Friday. Luke Kornet was the starting center for each game on the trip after supplanting Enes Kanter, who was not at practice Thursday due to an illness.
Indiana is 12-1 in its last 13 meetings with the Knicks. Sabonis scored 30 points on 12-of-12 shooting in a 107-101 win in New York on Oct. 31. Oladipo scored 26 points in a 110-99 home win on Dec. 16.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 11, 2019