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Pacer stumble in Madison Square Garden

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 14: Monta Ellis #11 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2017 in New York, New York Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NEW YORK — After a successful first half that saw the Indiana Pacers carry a 10-point lead into halftime, the wheels came flying off. The Pacers managed just 29 points in the entire second half and lost to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, 87-81.

Paul George and Myles Turner led the way with 22 and 17 points respectively, but no other Pacer reached double-figures in the disappointing offensive performance. The team shot just 36.8 percent from the field, including just 22 percent in the miserable second half.

“There is no excuse for that execution or lack of execution in our second half,” head coach Nate McMillan said afterward. “We did not play the game the right way.”

Indiana led by 13 midway through the third quarter, but scored just five points in the final nine minutes of the frame. The troubles continued to start the fourth quarter as Carmelo Anthony powered the Knicks ahead for good.

The Pacers managed to post the same number of assists on the evening as turnovers (16), and the 81 points was a season-low.

“We got out of our comfort (zone),” George said. “We have to play a lot more consistently.”

George is right.

The loss drops Indiana to an astounding 11-23 on the road this season, the worst of any potential playoff team. With just 15 games remaining on the season, the Pacers now hold just a two-game advantage over the first team out of the playoff picture, and are five games behind Toronto for the final first-round home-court advantage spot.

With seven of their remaining games on the road, the Pacers must fare better if they intend to keep themselves in the playoff hunt and avoid a first-round matchup with top-seeded Cleveland.

Indiana returns home Wednesday night to face the Charlotte Hornets ahead of a weekend trip to Toronto.

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