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Sabonis, Oladipo lead Pacers past Knicks on opening night

The Pacers blew past the Knicks, 121-107 on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Posted: Dec 24, 2020 12:38 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Victor Oladipo took matters into his own hands after a sluggish first half Wednesday night.

He drove to the basket, made shots and wound up scoring 16 of his 22 points in the final 24 minutes to lead the Indiana Pacers past the New York Knicks 121-107 on opening night.

“He wanted to be assertive in that second half,” new coach Nate Bjorkgren said after collecting his first career win. “I thought he was very aggressive, attacking the basket more, looking to shoot it more. I liked his aggressive mentality on both ends of the floor.”

Domantas Sabonis finished with a career-high 32 points, along with 13 rebounds and five assists to help Indiana win its fourth opener in five years.

RJ Barrett finished with 26 points and Alec Burks had 22 for New York, which lost on opening night for the fourth time in five years and the first time in coach Tom Thibodeau’s tenure.

And after a strong start, Thibodeau certainly expected a stronger finishing punch from his team.

“The way we played in the first half is the way we need to continue to play,” he said. “We probably played 24 minutes of good basketball and to win on the road, you have to do more than that.”

It wasn’t pretty and with only a few dozen people in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse stands, the energy was lacking, too.

But Oladipo’s opening outburst in the second half changed everything.

The two-time All-Star scored the Pacers’ first 11 points in the third quarter then found T.J. Warren for a breakaway layup to give the Pacers a 78-77 lead with 5:50 left in the quarter. Indiana never trailed again.

The Pacers extended the margin to 83-77 after three, made it a double-digit game early in the fourth and pulled away midway through the fourth.

“I’m just going to go out there and be assertive, be aggressive,” Oladipo said. “Everything else will take care of itself.”

TIP-INS

Knicks: Barrett played a nearly perfect first half, going 8 of 8 from the field, 3 of 3 on 3s and 1 of 2 at the free throw line. He finished 11 of 15 from the field. ... No. 8 pick Obi Toppin had nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in his NBA debut. ... Mitchell Robinson, who broke the league’s single-season field goal percentage record last season, struggled with fouls all night and was 1 of 2 from the field with three points. ... Julius Randle had 17 points and nine rebounds. ... The Knicks had 16 turnovers.

Pacers: T.J. Warren, who was so impressive in the bubble, wasn’t himself after returning from a foot injury. He missed his first six shots, didn’t score in the first half and wound up with five points. ... Myles Turner matched his career high with eight blocks. ... Malcolm Brogdon had 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. ... Indiana had a 49-40 rebounding advantage.

HURTING

Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley’s debut didn’t last long. The 25th overall pick in last month’s draft played just 12 minutes and took only three shots before leaving with a hip pointer.

He finished with five points, one rebound, one assist and one steal — and his status for Game 2 is unclear, too.

“He’ll be examined (Wednesday and Thursday),” Thibodeau said. “He had a great impact when he went into the game in the first half. Whoever the next guy is has to get in there and be ready.”

UP NEXT

Knicks: Thibodeau makes his home debut Saturday against Philadelphia. New York has lost 12 straight in the series.

Pacers: Indiana faces another familiar face with a new team, Billy Donovan, when it visits Chicago on Saturday.

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