BIGGER, BADDER, and so far better.
Physical beat finesse yesterday, as the Indiana Pacers outworked and outmuscled the New York Knicks in a 102-95 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
David West scored 20 points and Paul George added 19 for the Pacers, who outrebounded the Knicks 44-30, showing the smaller team that in the rugged East, size does matter.
"I thought guys did a good job just putting them on their heels," West said. "We were attacking, we were aggressive."
D.J. Augustin had 16 points for the Pacers, who built a 16-point lead while Carmelo Anthony was on the bench in foul trouble in the third quarter, and easily held on to spoil the Knicks' first second-round game since 2000.
Anthony finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, but was frustrated by the Pacers' tough defense and by the referees. He shot 10-for-28 from the field and was perhaps thrown out of sync having to defend West, a natural power forward, inside.
"Right now they're just being really physical with him, they're trying to bang him, they're trying to frustrate him," Knicks point guard Raymond Felton said. "But we're going to be fine, he's going to be fine."
Game 2 is in New York tomorrow night, and then the series takes a lengthy break before Game 3 on Saturday in Indiana.
The Pacers, who allowed the second-fewest points per game and the lowest field-goal percentage in the league during the regular season, mixed in solid offense as well. They outscored New York 59-38 across the middle two quarters and were comfortably ahead throughout the fourth.
"Just a strong defensive effort and then offensively guys played with great poise," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Just a complete team effort, very proud of them."
Roy Hibbert scored 14 points in thoroughly outplaying counterpart Tyson Chandler, and George Hill also had 14 for the Pacers, adding seven rebounds and six assists. Lance Stephenson added 11 points and 13 rebounds playing in his hometown.
At Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 35 points and hit a pair of jumpers in the final minute to lift the Thunder to a 93-91 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Derek Fisher poked the ball away from Mike Conley to spring Durant the other way and he pulled up to hit a shot with 11.1 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up 91-90. Thabo Sefolosha then deflected an inbounds pass, and Conley landed out of bounds while diving for the ball.
Reggie Jackson hit two free throws to make the lead three, and Quincy Pondexter was unable to hit all three of his free throws with 1.6 seconds left to tie it up.
The Brooklyn Nets announced that P.J. Carlesimo will not return as coach.
The Nets' first season in Brooklyn ended Saturday night with a Game 7 home loss to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs.