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Rick Carlisle calls for ‘fair’ action after Pacers’ Game 2 loss to Knicks

Rick Carlisle calls for ‘fair’ action after Pacers’ Game 2 loss to Knicks

NEW YORK – Rick Carlisle could no longer keep his composure. The frustration became too great. With 33.9 seconds left in Game 2 of the Indiana Pacers’ second-round playoff game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, he walked up to crew chief Marc Davis and started clapping at him. It could be about one seemingly bad call – another one, at least, from his perspective – or it could be about 96 minutes.

Carlisle has kept a running count. He counted 29 calls in Game 1 that he, and the Pacers, deemed incorrect. The NBA has a process through which teams can submit their complaints to the league, but Carlisle opposed that. He didn’t want to trigger a trickle-down effect in Game 2. The opener of this Knicks-Pacers series had been so close and so tight that the handful of referee decisions in the final minute played too big a role.

Instead, he hoped that by maintaining his silence he could achieve a better result on Wednesday.

Carlisle started his post-match press conference with a 2.5-minute monologue about the disparity in their performance in these Eastern Conference semifinals. The Knicks defeated the Pacers 130-121 in Game 2, enduring another round of injuries, losing another key player and nearly forcing the early exit of Jalen Brunson, their star. And yet they won.

That has left New York two wins away from the conference finals and has put the Pacers on tilt. Carlisle descended into conspiracy and complaints. The many issues that bedeviled the Pacers this evening fell by the wayside for conniptions about the referees. On Monday, Carlisle said the officiating didn’t cost them the opener; it was 48 minutes of trouble, not just a few phone calls away. That mask came off after Game 2.

“Small-market teams deserve an equal opportunity,” Carlisle said. “They deserve a fair chance. It doesn’t matter where they play.”

If this was a way to work with the referees – an important part of being a coach because whistles were wooden and replay reviews were only possible through word of mouth – it was full-throated. Carlisle’s grievances were long and loud.

He decried the push his star guard, Tyrese Haliburton, received midway through the third quarter — at the 5:08 mark, to be exact, as Carlisle rattled off the timestamp — claiming it was already “all over Twitter.” He praised the Knicks’ physicality and wondered why his Pacers weren’t given the same leeway. He promised to file the missed calls he said were made by the officials in Game 2 with the league office, knowing the Knicks would see his protest.

Carlisle had already announced one protest in the final minutes of the defeat, which saw him sent off after two technical fouls within nine seconds of each other. Instead, it was the slow burn before the jeremiad would come.

“I always talk to our guys about not talking about the officials, but we deserve a fair chance,” he said. “There is no consistent balance and that is disappointing. So give New York credit for the physicality they play with. But their physicality is rewarded and ours is punished again and again. I’m just very disappointed. Just very disappointed. The two technical aspects: you have to stand up for your guys.

The doubts about the performance, however intense, merely put a veil on the problems that effectively impaled the Pacers at Madison Square Garden. They saw another opportunity to steal a game in New York slip away. Haliburton had 34 points and nine assists and it wasn’t enough. Obi Toppin dropped 20 and single-handedly scored the Knicks bench, and the game was lost. TJ McConnell harassed the Knicks for 10 points and 12 assists, but it was in vain.

The Knicks played the final 15:32 of the first half without Brunson, who went to the locker room with a sore right foot. They played the last 15:27 of the game without OG Anunoby, as he suffered from a sore left hamstring after scoring 28 points. They haven’t had Julius Randle since January. Mitchell Robinson is out of the playoffs. Bojan Bogdanović had surgery after Game 4 in the first round.

Still, the Knicks continued to resuscitate; an entire team built from pit and an adamantium skeleton. Brunson scored 29 points, including 24 in the second half. Josh Hart again played 48 minutes, dropping 19 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Donte DiVincenzo had 28. The Knicks shot 57 percent from the floor and outgained the Pacers for loose balls and rebounds on repeat.

“It’s frustrating to see there’s a six-man rotation and guys playing 40-plus minutes,” McConnell said. “We just have to, like I said, try to keep making it difficult for them and get them to use as much energy as possible. But New York is a very good basketball team, very well coached and clearly in great shape.”

Indiana, the NBA’s second-best offense this season, was outgunned and outplayed. The 10-point halftime lead quickly disappeared in the third after being outscored by 10 points in the second half of Game 1. The Knicks scored 130 points on 91 possessions – the offensive rating of 142.9 was their third-highest of the entire season – and crossed the line. MSG. The Pacers had played faster all season, had more depth and better health, but were the ones to wither again in the second half.

Then McConnell was the one to complain about his team’s lack of energy. It seemed almost unthinkable. The Knicks continued to lose rotation players and gain strength. The long minutes were invigorating rather than exhausting. The Pacers couldn’t keep up. Not in transition and not on stage.

“If we don’t change things a little bit, they could continue,” McConnell said. “We just have to be better as a collective, you know, energy-wise, protecting leads and especially recovering them. You think you’ve shut them out, and they just keep going and going and going. We just have to be downright better.”

Now the Pacers will try to solve their problems at home. Madison Square Garden had been unattractive — even Reggie Miller, inside the arena and during the TNT broadcast for Game 2, caught a few strays — but it wasn’t the building that drove them crazy, it was the high-energy Knicks.

Indiana trailed 112-110 with 4:35 left but had no answers left. Carlisle may have lashed out at the officials after the loss, but the Knicks’ four offensive rebounds in that stretch played a bigger role in his woes.

It got Indiana looking. The Pacers nearly beat the Knicks in Game 1, winning the half by beating New York at its own game. They stayed close in Game 2 until the fourth quarter, but the Knicks ran them out of New York on their terms.

Haliburton, unlike his head coach, had little bitterness toward the officials. Instead, he pointed his fingers inward. He hoped for consistency from the referees, but more than that, he hoped the Pacers could have played better.

“We felt like we should have won this game,” Haliburton said. “It felt like we should have won the last game. But I feel like the way play-offs work – obviously it’s only my second series – but I feel like once you start sitting there with ‘Damn, we should have won that game,’ it puts you in the will bring confusion. Everything happens with a reason. I’m not really tripping. We have to be better in Gam3 and we will be better in Game 3. They always say series don’t start until the road team wins; we’re going back to Indy and obviously we’re enjoying our opportunities there.

(Photo by Rick Carlisle: Elsa/Getty Images)