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The New York Knicks' Raymond Felton (right) tries to shoot past the Indiana Pacers' George Hill during Game 3 of the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series on Saturday in Indianapolis. [Photo/Agencies]
Indiana rebounds from ugly loss in New York with 82-71 victory
The Indiana Pacers kept everything in front of them on Saturday night.
The Pacers didn't let the Knicks get away from them on fast breaks, didn't let the Knicks get good 3-point looks and didn't even give New York a chance to challenge late.
Instead, Roy Hibbert, Paul George and Indiana showed what it can do when it plays its game.
Hibbert finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while George nearly came up with another postseason triple double, leading the Pacers to a crucial 82-71 Game 3 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
"That's how we play Pacers basketball," George said. "We just locked in, and it was just helping one another on the defensive end."
Sure, Indiana could have been sidetracked by the embarrassing 26-point loss at New York in Game 2. Or it could have gotten caught up in the pregame banter about Amare Stoudemire's impending return or J.R Smith's sudden illness.
But the Pacers never got distracted.
Coach Frank Vogel's bunch followed the same game plan it has all season - locking down defensively, winning the rebounding battle and protecting its home court.
Check, check and check.
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.
It was enough to allow the Pacers to overcome 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."
It's the same formula Indiana won Game 1, and now, if Indiana wins a fifth straight home playoff game Tuesday night, it will head back to Madison Square Garden with a commanding lead over a longtime rival.
How did the Pacers do it again? They relied on scoring balance and in-your-face defense.
Hibbert kept loose balls alive in his best playoff performance of this postseason. Vogel called it his best playoff game ever.
George struggled to score, finishing with 14 points, but he also finished 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. "I just thought we were a little bit more precise defensively in terms of our communication and we shored some things up. We didn't allow them to get some of the things they got in the second game in New York."
The Knicks had only one player in double figures. Carmelo Anthony scored 21, but the NBA scoring champion went 6 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.
He was hardly alone.
Smith gave it a go, although his shooting woes continued. He went 4 of 12, scored nine points and walked directly to the locker room when he was replaced midway through the fourth quarter. A few minutes later, he came back into the game and is now 11 of 42 from the field in the series.
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.