After splitting two games at Madison Square Garden, the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks head to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a critical turning-point matchup. The winner of Game 3 will become the favorite to reach the Eastern Conference finals.
Ian Begley of ESPN New York passed along a stat to illustrate exactly how important tonight's game is for both sides. The losing team will also face immense pressure in Game 4 to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the series.
These type of games are why the playoffs are special. It should be an action-packed, drama-filled battle that goes right down to the wire. Let's take a look at the viewing information for Game 3, followed by a complete preview and prediction.
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
When: Saturday, May 11 at 8 p.m. ET
The Pacers must protect the ball better if they want to rebound from their blowout loss in Game 2. They turned it over 21 times, including seven by Paul George. The Knicks took advantage, scoring 32 points off those turnovers.
In a series that features such evenly matched teams, neither side can afford to give away that many easy buckets. You can bet New York is going to put a lot of pressure on George again. How he responds is one of the game's biggest keys.
Indiana also has to work the ball into the post more often. Roy Hibbert and David West combined to take 24 shots and scored 34 points in the opener. In Game 2, they took just 14 shots and chipped in only 19 points. That's a significant drop off.
The paint is one area where the Pacers should have a distinct advantage, especially when the Knicks are using a small lineup with Tyson Chandler as the only true big. When that post edge is available, they must exploit it as often as possible.
As for the Knicks, the game plan is no secret. Carmelo Anthony is going to get a boatload of touches and take a lot of shots. How efficient he is from the field will play a large part in whether or not New York can make it two straight.
The other issue is secondary scoring. J.R. Smith's poor shooting night (3-of-15) was overshadowed by the Game 2 win. He must be better tonight, along with continued production from Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton.
The Knicks are also expected to welcome Amar'e Stoudemire back into the fold, albeit in a limited role, according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York. It will be interesting to see how impactful he is after a knee injury. Expectations should remain low until he proves otherwise.
Since both teams prefer to play at a slow pace, the game comes down to which side runs its sets with more precision. The Pacers turned the ball over far too often in Game 2 and it was their undoing. The schedule gave them three days off to make the necessary adjustments.
All told, the Pacers should be able to limit their turnovers and pull out a narrow home-court victory to take the series lead.
Pacers 96, Knicks 94