Like the Hawks, the Knicks were frustrated by Indiana's in-your-face defense and the officials' calls or non-calls, and like Atlanta, it made a huge difference. Indiana held a 44-30 advantage on the glass and wound up with a 102-95 win in the series' opener, stealing home-court advantage from the second-seeded Knicks.
Anthony, for one, didn't buy it.
"It's like Coach (Mike) Woodson said and I agree with him, they beat us on the glass, they beat us to the loose basketballs out there, the hustle plays, and they outworked us," Anthony said. "I don't think that had anything do with being more physical."
The Pacers style can take a toll.
Smith struggled for most of the first-round series and now Anthony's shooting percentages are down slightly in this semifinal series. He's shooting 42.9 percent from the field and is 3 of 9 on 3-pointers compared 44.9 percent shooting and 37.9 percent on 3s during the regular season. Anthony also has missed more shots in the playoffs (130) than all but two players have attempted (Kevin Durant, 170; Stephen Curry, 164).
J.R. Smith has been even worse. The NBA's sixth man of the year is connecting on just 34 percent of his shots in the playoffs and is a dismal 7 of 30 in the playoffs.
The Knicks are hoping the expected return of Amare Stoudemire will help. But Stoudemire hasn't played since undergoing right knee surgery two months ago and will be limited to no more than 15 minutes, Woodson said Thursday.
And the Pacers aren't about to change their philosophy now after winning 49 regular-season games, five more in the playoffs and starting the postseason 3-0 at home. Indiana figures if it can control the tempo, the paint and the glass with its physical play, it can put any team on its heels.
"I think teams just try to play to their identity," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "When we're playing well, we're tough to beat. We share the basketball, we defend, we rebound, and they have to try to respond in some way."