Today one of the most watered down rivalries in NBA history will be on display. The #3 seed Indiana Pacers will travel to New York to face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. This series will be a hard fought, tough, grind it out kind of series. We know these two ball clubs are no distant strangers, going all the way back to the Patrick Ewing/ Reggie Miller era. Indiana who closed out the Atlanta Hawks in 6 games looks to make a trip back to the ECF for the first time since in over a decade. The play of Paul George has been delightful to watch , not shooting so hot from the field (.418) but is averaging (9.5) rpg. Also George is getting to the free throw line 8 times a contest and is shooting (0.81%). The play of George is vital, I also have my eye on point guard George Hill. While Indiana breezed by Atlanta, New York found themselves in a dog fight with the aging Boston Celtics. It was either win or go home and Mike Woodson and the Knicks stepped up to the challenge. Carmelo Anthony has been struggling shooting the ball as of late (.381%) in the opening round. In order for the Knicks to win this series he is going to have to be efficient and consistent throughout.
Keys to the game: Pacers
– Keep the CROWD under control, utilize timeouts when necessary.
– Force another player other than Carmelo Anthony to beat you.
– Close out/ Stay at home on shooters, with Hibbert clogging the paint Indiana can afford to stay at home.
– Frank Vogel is going to have to “OUT COACH” Mike Woodson!
– Indy’s bench MUST outplay the New York Knicks bench.
Keys to the game: Knicks
-Get crowd involved early
– BOX OUT, BOX OUT, BOX OUT!! during the regular season Indiana led the league in rebounding.
– Iman Shumpert has to keep Paul George out of the lane. Force him to beat you shooting jump shots.
– Raymond Felton’s penetration is BIG, because that’s going to open up shots for the Knicks three point shooters (J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Carmelo Anthony)
-Don’t fall in love with the three point shot, although the Knicks are a three point shooting ball club that’s exactly what the Pacers want.
“X- FACTOR”: PACERS
George Hill will be the “X-Factor” in game one and possibly the series. Hill a bigger point guard is going to force the issue when guarding Felton. Not only is Hill a phenomenal on ball defender, he a scoring option on offense. He has the ability to shoot the ball from three and can create for himself off the bounce. In the previous series vs. Atlanta he averaged (15.3) ppg and (1.5) spg. Its definitely imperative that he keeps Felton out of the lane which will force the Knicks to have to move the ball side to side.
“X- FACTOR”: KNICKS
Kenyon Martin to me has been the “X-Factor” throughout this playoff run. No he is not going to put up 20 points per game but he brings a toughness to the floor. Martin is averaging a team leading (1.5) bpg this postseason. His defensive presence is always felt when he is in the game, Kenyon can guard the perimeter and he is able to bang down low. I look for Mike Woodson to play Martin on Indiana’s David West a lot, watch out for that matchup both guys are physical players that like contact.
NOTE: PF Amar’e Stoudemire could return this series, possibly game 3 per ESPN sources.
Prediction: Knicks in 7