The New York Knicks trail the Indiana Pacers 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and while tying the series will be a difficult task, it will be even tougher if guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert are unable to play on Tuesday night.
UPDATE: Tuesday, May 14 at 5:45 p.m. ET by Sam Westmoreland
It sounds as though Shumpert's injury isn't too serious. According to Jared Zwerling of ESPN.com, the guard's MRI revealed no structural damage, and he's expected to play tonight. J.R. Smith is also expected to play, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday.
Jared Zwerling @JaredZwerling
From #Knicks: An MRI of Iman Shumpert's left knee today revealed no structural damage. He is expected to play tonight.5/14/2013, 9:35:25 PM
Al Iannazzone @Al_Iannazzone
Woodson said Shumpert will play and start. He also said JR Smith and Kenyon Martin would play.5/14/2013, 9:42:45 PM
According to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, Smith is questionable with an illness, which limited him in Game 3, and Shumpert is also questionable due to a knee injury:
Ian Begley @IanBegley
Iman Shumpert (knee), JR Smith (illness) and Kenyon Martin (illness) are all listed as questionable for Game 4. Martin says he'll play.5/14/2013, 3:10:38 PM
Their statuses are far from certain at this point, but neither Smith nor Shumpert practiced on Monday, according to the Knicks' official Twitter feed:
Smith is the Sixth Man of the Year and has provided an offensive punch off the bench all season, while Shumpert is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the NBA, so their health is likely to be a major factor in Game 4.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about both players at this point, but Smith appears to have a better shot at playing. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, both Smith and forward Kenyon Martin, who is also dealing with an illness, attended today’s shootaround.
Shumpert’s situation is a bit more touch-and-go, as Isola is reporting that the Knicks have called in Dr. Answorth Allen.
Allen performed surgery on Shumpert last year after he tore his ACL in Game 1 of the Knicks’ first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. The Knicks are obviously worried about Shumpert if they are going to such great lengths to have him checked out, so it seems quite possible that New York will be without the dynamic second-year man in Game 4.
The Knicks are in no position to cry over spilled milk, though. A loss to Indiana in Game 4 would put New York in a 3-1 hole, so the No. 2 seed must battle through injuries and turn in a strong effort on the road regardless of who plays.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter