The Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies both took 2-1 leads in their NBA conference semifinal series with victories on Saturday, as two of the league’s more modest teams got the better of the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder respectively.
Indiana’s Roy Hibbert finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Paul George nearly came up with another postseason triple double, leading the Pacers to an 82-71 win.
Indiana limited the Knicks to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor, allowed just three 3-pointers and forced 15 turnovers. And, of course, the league’s No. 1 rebounding team dominated the glass again, finishing with a 53-40 rebounding edge and a 20-10 edge in second-chance points.
“That’s how we play Pacers basketball,” George said. “We just locked in, and it was just helping one another on the defensive end.”
Indiana won despite a 28 for 80 shooting performance that included a season-high 33 3-point attempts.
“They outrebounded us, they won the hustle today, the little things,” Carmelo Anthony said. “It all came down to us not scoring the basketball. … We can’t beat anyone scoring 71 points.”
If Indiana wins a fifth straight home playoff game on Tuesday, it will head back to Madison Square Garden with a commanding lead over a longtime rival.
HIbbert kept loose balls alive in his best playoff performance of this postseason. Coach Frank Vogel called it his best playoff game ever.
George finished with 14 points, but he also had eight rebounds and eight assists and caused plenty of consternation for Anthony and others on defense.
David West got off to a slow start but finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds and George Hill knocked down five 3s and he finished with 17 points.
“We didn’t change much in terms of our physicality,” West said. “We were a little bit more precise defensively in terms of our communication and we shored some things up.”
The Knicks had only one player in double figures. Carmelo Anthony scored 21, but the NBA scoring champion went j6 of 16 from the field, managed only two points and no baskets in the fourth quarter and finished well below his playoff scoring average of 29.3.
J.R. Smith gave it a go although his shooting woes continued. He went 4 of 12, scored nine points and walked directly to locker room when he was replaced midway through the fourth quarter. He is 11 of 42 from the field in the series.
Amare Stoudemire looked rusty in his return, making just 3 of 8 eight shots — one a dunk, another on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter — and finished with seven points and two rebounds.
The Knicks barely escaped the ignominy of setting a franchise playoff record for fewest points in a game. The all-time low is 67. New York didn’t hit 68 until there was 1:39 left.
“Offensively, we just didn’t have anything,” coach Mike Woodson said. “I thought defensively, we hung in there and did what we had had to do, but we just didn’t have any offensive pop and we have to figure that out.”
Memphis remained unbeaten at home in the postseason after a gritty but unspectacular 87-81 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Marc Gasol scored 20 points and hit two late free throws left to put Memphis ahead to stay.
After struggling at the free throw line in Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies hit all six at the line in the final 1:03 to clinch it.
“We just stayed after it like we’ve done all year long,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “It’s not always pretty. Tonight wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty for us because we got the win.”
Game 4 is Monday in Memphis where the Grizzlies are 18-1 since Feb. 8.
“I’d rather take my chances with where we’re sitting now and try to win all of our home games,” Hollins said. “We got a long way to go, and we got to keep battling.”
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant scored 25 points, but only two in the fourth quarter. A 91 percent free throw shooter in the regular season, Durant missed two with 39.3 seconds left. Durant also had 11 rebounds and five assists.
“It’s frustrating, but we can’t hang our heads,” Durant said. “We have to keep playing and keep improving. We just have to learn from it. We have to embrace the tough times and get better from it. I believe in my teammates.”
The Thunder had their worst scoring and shooting performance this postseason. Durant went 3 of 11 from the floor in the second half, and his teammates went a combined 23 of 69 for the game.
Reggie Jackson had 16 points and Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka each added 13 for the Thunder, with Jackson and Ibaka also grabbing 10 rebounds apiece.
Tony Allen had his best game in this series, scoring 14 points for Memphis. Jerryd Bayless added 11. Zach Randolph scored only eight points but had 10 rebounds.
Memphis won despite not winning in the categories the Grizzlies usually dominate. The Thunder outrebounded them 51-44, with a 14-5 edge on the offensive glass. The Thunder also outscored the Grizzlies 44-30 in the paint, with a 23-7 edge on fast-break points.
The Thunder didn’t score after Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer with 1:58 left, a shot tying for the eighth and final time at 81. The Grizzlies’ edge came from getting to the line where they hit more free throws (23 of 28) than Oklahoma City even took (12 of 19).
“They beat us in a lot of different areas tonight,” said Memphis guard Mike Conley, who hit all four free throws in the final minute. “For us to come away with the win, we are very happy. We will take it, but it just goes to show we have a lot of work to do. We have to do better the next game.”