Whereas the Pacers grind out wins by playing excellent defense and crashing the boards, the Knicks are an explosive offensive that likes to bomb away from beyond the arc and are led by NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony.
Seeing as these teams split the season series, winning two games apiece, we should have a very competitive series on our hands. Let's preview this compelling matchup.
|1||Sunday, May 5||Knicks||3:30 p.m. ET||ABC|
|2||Tuesday, May 7||Knicks||7 p.m. ET||TNT|
|3||Saturday, May 11||Pacers||8 p.m. ET||ABC|
|5 (if necessary)||TBD||Knicks||TBD||TBD|
|6 (if necessary)||TBD||Pacers||TBD||TBD|
|7 (if necessary)||TBD||Knicks||TBD||TBD|
November 18, 2012: Knicks win, 88-76
January 10, 2013: Pacers win, 81-76
February 20, 2013: Pacers win, 125-91
April 14, 2013: Knicks win, 90-80
What They're Saying
There are plenty of intriguing storylines in this series, as the teams play very different styles and have a history dating back to the '90s of meeting in the playoffs. But one of the major battles in this series will come from the three-point line, as the Associated Press (via NBA.com) notes:
"They're the best 3-point shooting team in history. They made more 3s this year than any other team in NBA history. So we understand what they're capable," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We led the league in guarding the 3 this year. We have a great deal of confidence that we can guard them if we execute our defense the way we're supposed to."
The Pacers held the Knicks to just 37 percent shooting while splitting the four-game season series, including a 125-91 victory in February that was New York's worst loss of the season. Anthony was 4 of 17 from 3-point range and the Knicks had ugly numbers all over their roster, from Jason Kidd (3 of 20) to Iman Shumpert (4 of 15) to Pablo Prigioni (2 of 10). Amare Stoudemire shot 5 of 16 and Steve Novak was 9 of 28.
Key Player: Paul George
George was the Pacers' leading scorer in the regular season, averaging 17.4 points per game to go along with 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals. But he absolutely blew up in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, leading the team in points (18.7), rebounds (9.5), assists (5.0) and steals (1.8).
The Pacers are a balanced bunch that need to get scoring from players like David West, George Hill and Roy Hibbert. But every contender needs that go-to option in a pinch or late in the game, and the 2013 Most Improved Player is that guy for the Pacers.
Plus, he'll likely have the unenviable task of guarding Anthony for much of this series. From ESPN Stats and Information:
If the regular season is any indication, the Pacers will lean heavily on Paul George when it comes to defending Carmelo Anthony. In the four regular-season matchups, Anthony was 19 for 49 from the field when guarded by George with three fouls drawn. When not matched up with George, Anthony was also defended by David West and Sam Young, who forced Anthony to go a combined 4 for 11 from the floor.
Key Matchup: Roy Hibbert vs. Tyson Chandler
Look, we know that Carmelo is going to get his. But the battle I'm most intrigued with in this series is in the paint.
Hibbert has been solid all season, and that continued in the playoffs, as he averaged 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game against the Hawks. He'll battle Chandler, who averaged just 5.2 points per game against the Boston Celtics but added 8.7 rebounds and 0.6 blocks.
Chandler's job in this series will be simple: win the rebounding battle down low and frustrate Hibbert by playing physical defense. If he succeeds, the Pacers are in danger of becoming a perimeter-scoring team—always a risk for a squad better suited to winning by playing good defense, limiting an opponent's possessions and getting easy buckets down low.
Which team will win this series?
The Knicks have the best player and home-court advantage, but I like the Pacers in this series. Indiana is an excellent defensive team (and very good at defending the three). It will win the rebounding battle, limiting New York's possessions, and has a balanced attack that can probe the Knicks' defense in multiple ways.
I think this will be an excellent series, but I like the Pacers to take it in seven games.