INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New coach Tom Thibodeau expects the New York Knicks to play tough and physical.
He also knows a veteran like Austin Rivers can help show his young team how it’s done.
Rivers made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:23 to play and added another clutch basket during the game-sealing run Saturday night to help the Knicks record a rare 106-102 victory over Indiana.
“I think the experience is huge and it gives us another guy who can put the ball on the floor,” Thibodeau said. “He can makes 3s, he can play defense and I think that’s the way the league is going right now. I thought he made big shots, big plays and he’s still working his way through the conditioning piece of it.”
Rivers missed New York’s first four games with a groin injury before returning to the lineup Thursday. Two nights later, he made an impact.
Less than two weeks after the Knicks lost to Indiana for the ninth time in 10 meetings, by a 14-point margin, Rivers helped them find a way to rebound.
No, he wasn’t the team’s top scorer. That honor belonged to RJ Barrett, who had 25 points. And, no, Rivers didn’t have a second straight double-double. That was Julius Randle, who had 13 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
But Rivers was effective inside and outside, and his teammates took the cue by following their coach’s calling card. New York outrebounded Indiana 51-32, with the Pacers grabbing just five offensive rebounds.
“That’s the difference in the game,” Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “Their ability to rebound the ball and be physical inside was huge.”
Brogdon led the Pacers with a career-high 33 points but his 3 was blocked by Mitchell Robinson with less than a minute to go, which led to Rivers’ breakaway basket during the decisive 11-0 run.
Neither team earned style points in a game played with typical post-holiday sluggishness.
But after trailing 51-50 at the break, the Knicks opened the second half on a 16-5 scoring flurry to retake the lead and extend it to 66-56. And after Justin Holiday tied the score at 82 with a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the third quarter, Randle broke the tie with a 3 to start the fourth.
Then after Indiana charged back to take a 96-93 lead, Robinson started the closing run with a dunk. Rivers followed with the 3, and his breakaway basket sealed it.
“(Thibodeau) just tells me to go play because he knows I really don’t have any familiarity with the sets,” Rivers said. “The easiest thing to do sometimes is just go play.”
Knicks: Barrett apparently likes playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where he was 4 of 5 on 3s in this one and is 7 of 8 from long range this season. He is 0 for 21 on 3s in every other venue. … Robinson had 16 points and nine rebounds.
Pacers: Brogdon was 6 for 6 from the field in the first quarter. The rest of his teammates made just four first-period baskets. He finished 7 of 10 on 3s. … Domantas Sabonis had his sixth straight double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. … Myles Turner had 17 points and one block. … Indiana was 19 of 50 on 3s and forced 15 turnovers.
Pacers guard Aaron Holiday made his third start of the season and his second straight in place of injured forward T.J. Warren.
Warren is out indefinitely after having surgery on his left foot, meaning Aaron Holiday could see significant minutes for the foreseeable future. The Pacers need him to play better than he did Saturday, though. He missed all six shots, including five 3s, and did not score. He had two rebounds and one assist.
“I think T.J. is the best pure scorer on the team,” Brogdon said. “So that hurts us a lot.”
Knicks: Complete a four-game road trip Monday at Atlanta.
Pacers: Play their second road game of the season Monday at New Orleans.
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