NEW YORK (AP) — Victor Oladipo didn’t have a preseason to get used to the NBA’s bumps and bruises again, so Indiana coach Nate McMillan wasn’t surprised when his star guard had to end his night early.
Back spasms prevented Oladipo from playing the fourth quarter of what was the first game after his minutes restriction had been lifted.
The Pacers held on without him to beat the New York Knicks 106-98 on Friday night in their return from the All-Star break.
“Victor is going through what these guys went through in October, falling or hitting the floor. He’s going to have some soreness, he’s going to have to work his way through that,” McMillan said, “and this is to be expected when you’ve been off for a summer, in Victor’s case an entire year.”
T.J. Warren had 27 points and eight rebounds, Domantas Sabonis added 24 points and 13 rebounds, and the Pacers won their second straight after a six-game losing streak.
Oladipo finished with eight points in his eighth game after returning last month following a year absence with a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee. McMillan thought Oladipo stiffened up after hitting the floor a couple times, but Oladipo said his back locked up after his body contorted when he was fouled taking a shot.
He ended up playing 25 minutes and had a good finish to the first half, scoring Indiana’s final five points.
“Just trying to get lost in the game as best as I can, trying to get involved as best as I can,” he said.
Bobby Portis scored 19 points and RJ Barrett had 17 for the Knicks, who have lost three in a row. Leading scorer Julius Randle shot 2 for 9 and finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
McMillan repeatedly said the Pacers would have to be patient with Oladipo’s reintroduction to the team, noting that most times when a player is out as long as he was, he comes back at the start of the season with a full training camp.
But Oladipo is working his way back past the midway point of the season, a tough adjustment for a team sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and with work to do if it hopes to earn home-court advantage in the first round.
Indiana looked awful early, scoring just 15 points in the first quarter before breaking out for 36 in the second. Oladipo had just one basket before getting the Pacers’ final two and sending them into the half with a 51-44 lead.
The Pacers then outscored the Knicks 23-8 to start the third, opening a 74-52 advantage when Oladipo made a free throw with 3:45 remaining in the period on the play in which he was apparently hurt. Warren outscored New York by himself during that stretch, with nine points.
New York cut it to 91-85 after a 7-0 burst, but Warren had a basket and then a three-point play to stop the comeback and give the Pacers a 96-85 lead with 5:12 to go.
The Knicks were able to get within four in the final minute, but the Pacers made enough free throws to hold on.
“I think it was just figuring out their game plan defensively,” Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina said. “They had the will to close the paint and we finally figured it out, but it was too late.”
Pacers: Oladipo still won’t play in both games when the Pacers play on consecutive nights. They have three back-to-backs left. … Indiana has won four straight at Madison Square Garden.
Knicks: Point guard Elfrid Payton sat out with right ankle soreness. Ntilikina started and scored 14 points. … The Knicks begin three-game trip after this game.
McMillan said Oladipo would be considered day to day, and Oladipo said he wasn’t sure yet if would be able to play Sunday in Toronto. He also downplayed McMillan’s point about not having a training camp to get his body used to taking hits again.
“I’m not making no excuses for myself and I don’t want nobody else to make any excuses for me,” Oladipo said.
Pacers: Visit Toronto on Sunday.
Knicks: Visit Houston on Monday. The Knicks have lost the last eight meetings.
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