WHAT IT MEANS: It means the Knicks, 11 games after their big trade, are still capable of looking entirely different from one night to the next, no matter who is healthy or not. Chauncey Billups returned from a six-game absence and played as though he had been sidelined six weeks, making bad decisions, rushing shots (he was 4-for-14) and failing to get the team into any kind of an offensive rhythm. But before you go hankering for a return to Toney Douglas as the starter, consider that he was even worse: Of Douglas' 12 shots, he missed 11 -- seven of them from 3-point range where the Knicks were just 7-for-30. The Pacers had dropped six in a row coming in, but they played from ahead from the midpoint of the first quarter onward, and the Knicks never made any kind of a sustained push after falling behind by double digits just 31 seconds into the third quarter.
TURNING POINT: Well, it wasn't the opening tip -- but it was soon thereafter. Indiana jumped out to an 8-1 lead on a vicious dunk by Paul George en route to scoring 18 points in the paint in a first quarter that ended with the Pacers ahead 29-21, and the Pacers' shooting percentage at halftime was 60.5 percent as the Knicks showed no interior defensive presence whatsover.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: For the Knicks, there was no one. Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points, but 14 of those came in the first quarter. Amare Stoudemire had 28, including 10 in the fourth quarter that were too little, too late. For Indiana, Tyler Hansbrough scored 13 of his 29 points in the third quarter when Indiana kept the Knicks a safe distance away.
PLAYOFF POSITIONING: What would it take for the Knicks to tank their way into the most desirable playoff seeding? Three key injuries for he opponent they would want to lock in against. "The top four seeds are really important, and then you can play fantasy basketball, but you don’t know and you don’t try to get into any position unless somebody goes out with three players, then all of a sudden you say you want to get there because they don’t have three players," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "But if everybody is healthy and playing well, it doesn’t mean much. The biggest thing is just trying to play well and get in the playoffs. If you’re playing well at that point, no matter what, you’ve got to win on the road anyway sometimes."
WHAT'S NEXT: A rematch with these same Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, then another stretch of four games in five nights: Memphis visits the Garden on Thursday, the Knicks are in Detroit on Friday and then in Milwaukee next Sunday afternoon, then back home Monday night for the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics.