Carmelo Anthony tried to be Superman for the New York Knicks, but once he stopped making shots, the Indiana Pacers proved to be kryptonite and have pushed the Knicks to the brink of elimination.
Anthony missed all four of his field goals in the fourth quarter and fouled out. Paul George had six points, four rebounds and two assists in the period, helping the Pacers handle the Knicks 93-82 on Tuesday night.
The Pacers took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and would advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2004 with a win Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony scored 24 points, but finished just 9 of 23 from the field. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said it's a team effort to check the NBA's leading scorer, though George, who was voted to the NBA's All-Defensive second team this week, deserves credit.
"I'm not really sure how we're doing it other than trying our best," Vogel said. "Guys are giving great effort. Roy (Hibbert) and Ian (Mahinmi) are giving great protection at the rim, and Paul George is working his tail off to do the best he can to try to limit him."
To blame Anthony entirely for New York's offensive failures, though, would miss the point. Knicks not named Carmelo shot a combined 22 for 64 from the field Tuesday. Two starters - Kenyon Martin and Iman Shumpert - failed to score in a combined 45 minutes of play. New York had just 14 assists on 31 baskets.
"It's almost funny and kind of frustrating to keep sitting here talking about our offense and not being able to score the basketball with the weapons we have," Anthony said.
Indiana's weapons were working fine. George Hill scored 26 points, George had 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists and Lance Stephenson had 13 points and seven rebounds. Hibbert scored just six points, but he had 11 rebounds and three blocks and made the Knicks' drivers uncomfortable in the paint. David West added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana outrebounded the Knicks 54-36 and outscored New York 23-12 from the free throw line, indicating that the Pacers were both tougher and smarter than the Knicks, two major areas of concern from Game 3. New York committed a staggering 29 fouls, and five Knicks ended the game with at least four.
It was a far cry from what Indiana experienced a week ago in New York. Or last year at home against Miami.
Last week, the Knicks rallied from a Game 1 loss, using a 30-2 run to blow out Indiana at Madison Square Garden and even the series.
A year ago, the Pacers held a 2-1 lead over Miami but gave away Game 4 and never won again. Miami went on to win the NBA crown.
So the Pacers went into Tuesday night determined not let it happen again, certainly not with former stars Reggie Miller and Rik Smits in the house watching their old team hand it to their old rivals.
Martin played 29 minutes and J.R. Smith logged 31½ despite missing practice Sunday and Monday because they were ill. Shumpert started even with a sore and swollen left knee that had the Knicks so worried they brought an orthopedic doctor to Indy to examine it Tuesday. The doctor determined there was no structural damage.
Amare Stoudemire was called for four fouls in 11-plus minutes in his second game back since March 7 and had only four points and four rebounds.
Smith, the NBA's top sixth man, scored 19 points, most coming in a futile attempt to rally his team late.
And on a night when New York shot just 35.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent on 3-pointers, the ugliest part may have been how the Knicks lost their composure, giving away points on technical foul calls, arguing with the refs, even smacking the press table in frustration.
New York is convinced it can get things turned around quickly after losing five of its last seven, mostly because of horrendous shooting.
"It's do or die, we got to win the next game," Anthony said. "But there's no need for anyone to hang their heads at this point. We've still got a game to play, we've still got to play basketball and we've got to do it being very confident and knowing and believing that we can do it."
West said Indiana will take its usual approach.
"I just know that our focus has always been the next game," he said. "Within these games, we have been talking about getting to the next play. Regardless if we make mistakes or not, we get to the next play. And it's been working out for us. We're going to do the same thing. Leave this game at this arena and get to the next game. We'll strategize and make sure our focus is where it needs to be and then go from there."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.