Both teams' defenses were solid early on, as the score was 16-14 after the first quarter, with Indiana up. The Knicks could've sure used Carmelo Anthony, who is serving a one-game suspension for his post-game altercation with Kevin Garnett on Monday night. His absence allowed the Pacers, one of the NBA's top defensive teams, to guard the Knicks more one-on-one, which took away their 3-point looks. In fact, the Knicks only converted one 3-pointer (1-for-9) in the entire half.
Here are three observations at the half:
1. Marcus Camby's hot start. He had the first bucket of the game -- a 18-foot jump shot -- and then followed that up with two driving shots. In the first seven minutes of the first quarter, he had seven points. While Amar'e Stoudemire's progression has gotten the most attention, Camby's has gotten overlooked. In every game back since Dec. 25, he's looked for his shot more and more. Without Anthony tonight, he knew he needed to give the team a bigger punch.
2. Stoudemire's aggressiveness. After Tyson Chandler left the game late in the opening period with two fouls, the Knicks turned to STAT more on the block. He finally converted in the early part of the second quarter when he made a strong cut on Tyler Hansbrough, then quickly spun to finish with a left-handed layup. He showed a lot of young explosiveness on the move. Then, on a following defensive possession, he had a great help-side block on Hansbrough. In only seven minutes in the first half, he made an impact with his energy and effort.
3. Just Remarkable! With 54 seconds remaining in the first quarter, J.R. Smith pulled off another one the best dunks of the season. He drove past his defender and took off from about eight feet out and climbed over Ian Mahinmi for the vicious one-handed jam. It even got Anthony fired up. He tweeted moments later, “That dunk was SICK by Tape 8!!!!!!!! Wow!!! U have just been [taped]"
Overall, Smith's playmaking off pick-and-rolls has been pretty good, as he found Chandler inside for a dunk and then later hit a mid-range jump shot. However, he's only 3-for-11 from the field. Paul George, one of the best defenders in the league, has forced Smith to lose his dribble a bit and take some contested fallaway shots.
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