According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, defensive specialist Iman Shumpert missed the New York Knicks' most recent practice due to knee soreness. There is no confirmation as to whether or not he'll play in Game 4, but the soreness is concerning, nonetheless.
Most importantly, the ailment is coming at the worst possible time for a Knicks team that has displayed all signs of checking out.
Shumpert is experiencing the soreness in his left knee, which has Knicks fans feeling a bad case of deja vu. As for why, it's important to note that this isn't the first time that a left knee injury has damaged Shumpert's eligibility and New York's postseason odds.
During the Knicks' opening game of the 2012 NBA playoffs, Shumpert tore his left ACL and was thus absent until Jan. 17, 2013.
Soreness is clearly a long way from a tear, but any person with a history of knee issues will tell you how troubling this is. Not only does this create the potential for a future injury, but it significantly limits mobility.
Something the Knicks cannot afford.
As the video above displays, Shumpert's explosiveness has been one of the only reasons New York has survived this long.
Since going up 3-0 on the Boston Celtics, the Knicks have gone 2-4 and have looked like a fish out of water in the process. As it presently stands, they're trailing the Indiana Pacers by a count of 2-1 with Game 4 being played on the road.
For a Knicks team that has won just one road playoff game since 2001, the odds are stacked quite high—Shumpert was one of the few players inspiring the belief that New York could overcome them.
Entering the 2013 NBA playoffs, the New York Knicks were expected to make their run while being led by scoring champion Carmelo Anthony and Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith. Unfortunately, Smith has been abysmal since throwing a senseless elbow at Jason Terry and thus getting suspended.
In his absence, it's been Iman Shumpert that has stepped up offensively.
Shumpert, in his second season and consistently playing out of position, has posted averages of 9.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals on 44.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. This comes in 29.9 minutes per game, which has been a fluctuating number.
Even when his shot isn't falling, Shumpert is contributing.
Thus far against the Pacers, he's averaging 11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. In New York's lone win, Shump tallied 15 points, six rebounds and three assists on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
By comparison, Smith is averaging 11.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist on 26.2 percent shooting from the field and 18.8 percent from beyond the arc—New York cannot afford to lose Shumpert with this transpiring.
It's no secret that Iman Shumpert is one of the most imposing defensive figures in the NBA. The 6'7", 220-pound swingman has the length to contain slashers, athleticism to defend in transition and prowess to control jump shooters.
During the 2013 NBA playoffs, he's taken that to another level.
Shumpert struggled defensively during the regular season, fighting the uphill battle to recovery. Even still, his ability was on full display as he fronted New York's defensive perimeter.
According to Basketball-Reference, however, Shumpert posted a defensive rating of 106 during the regular season—that number is down to 94 during the playoffs.
Against a Pacers team that grinds out victories defensively, Shumpert's defensive presence is the key to New York's future success. Neither team will find it easy to score in this one, so out-dueling the other defensively is the key.
Without Shumpert, the Knicks simply will not be able to do so.
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