Defense has been the Indiana Pacers' calling card all season long. It disappeared for stretches in Game 6, but it reemerged at a key point in the fourth quarter to help push the Pacers past the Knicks, 106-99, to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Down 89-88 midway through the fourth quarter, Roy Hibbert kept the Knicks from going up four by blocking a Carmelo Anthony dunk attempt literally right at the rim. Two plays later, Stephenson picked off an Anthony pass and converted a three-point play to put the Pacers up 95-92.
Stephenson, who finished the game with a career-high 25 points, stayed aggressive the next play down, driving on Tyson Chandler and causing him to pick up his sixth foul as the Pacers took a five-point lead and never looked back.
Indiana looked ready to put the game on ice midway through the third quarter when the rest of the Knicks finally gave Carmelo Anthony some help. Down 10, the Knicks went on a quick 12-2 run to tie the game in typical Knick fashion. Iman Shumpert sank three consecutive three-pointers before J.R. Smith added one of his own. Shumpert finished the third with 16 of his 19 points to help the Knicks tie the game at 81 heading in to the fourth quarter.
The Pacers initially took control of the game in the second quarter thanks to balanced scoring from their starting five and utter domination on the glass. The Pacers out-rebounded the Knicks 25-15 in the first half. Stephenson was key in the first half, scoring 13 points, including a three-point play with five seconds left to stretch the Pacers lead to eight at the half. Anthony's 20 first-half points and eight Pacers turnovers were the only two things that kept Indiana from blowing the game open.
Anthony wouldn't let the Knicks go quietly, scoring 35 of his 39 points in the first three quarters as the Knicks tried to fight back. George continued to hound him on defense, but Anthony was able to convert just a couple of inches of space into points. Anthony did struggle in the fourth quarter, though, making just two of his seven shot attempts.
George Hill returned from a concussion he suffered in Game 4, finishing with 12 points on just 2-10 shooting, but he did add five rebounds and four assists. Most importantly though, he only had one turnover, helping steady the Pacers offense when he was in the game. In addition to his defense on Anthony, George scored 23 points, while Roy Hibbert added 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
The Pacers now get a couple of days off before traveling to Miami for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It's the second year in a row the teams have met in the playoffs. Last season, the Pacers pushed the Heat to six games before bowing out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Game 1 is 7 p.m. ET Wednesday from the American Airlines Arena and can be seen on TNT.