The 2013 NBA playoffs will continue on Saturday, May 18, as the Eastern Conference Semifinals take center stage. With the action limited to one monumental game, however, all eyes will be on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The question is, how will the action transpire as the Indiana Pacers host the New York Knicks?
The Pacers enter Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, but are coming off of an 85-75 loss at Madison Square Garden. With a potential Game 7 scheduled to be played in New York, the stage is set for Indiana to enter "must-win" territory.
As for the Knicks, they're one loss away from elimination—they've been in that scenario since Game 5.
Carmelo Anthony stepped up with 28 points in Game 6, while Chris Copeland supplied 13 huge points in 19 minutes. With Indiana going cold from the field and shooting just 36.2 percent, this enabled New York to grind out a close, but controlled, victory.
Don't expect Game 6 to be so one-sided offensively.
New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers, Game 6
Time: Saturday, May 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Series Record: Indiana Pacers 3, New York Knicks 2
Indiana's X-Factor: George Hill's Health
The Indiana Pacers enter this game with both home-court advantage and a positional void that has led to a reasonable cause for concern. With all due respect to D.J. Augustin and his efforts during Game 5, that debilitating weakness can be found at the point guard position.
It's all about George Hill.
Likely won't learn anything new on George Hill's availability today. He is "day-to-day" and that is all they are offering up.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) May 17, 2013
Hill is battling a concussion and was forced to miss Game 5—he could miss Game 6, as well.
Hill may not have the reputation of a top-tier point guard, but his impact on the Pacers has been undeniable. Not only has he helped lead their offense, but his defensive presence has been key for Indiana during the playoffs.
Just check the numbers.
George Hill out for Pacers tonight. Pacers are +6 in net efficiency this series with Hill on the court, -20 with Hill off the court.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2013
Need we say more?
With Hill on the floor, the Pacers are the favorites to close out this series at home and move on to face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Without Hill, however, the Pacers proved how directionless their offense can be in Game 5.
Pacers have outscored opponents by 61 points with George Hill on floor this postseason and have been outscored by 37 pts with him off court— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2013
Hill's health is the key here, and he'll need to pass the NBA's strict concussion tests to be available. Even if he is active, we can't help but wonder.
How effective can Hill be if he does play?
New York's X-Factor: J.R. Smith
The New York Knicks were playing like a title contender early in the postseason, winning three consecutive games over the Boston Celtics. Their defense was clicking on all cylinders, their offense was flowing when it needed to and they were just one win away from sweeping their rivals.
And then J.R. Smith was suspended for throwing an elbow at Celtics shooting guard Jason Terry.
Since Smith was suspended, he's averaging 13.3 points on a slash line of .294/.268/.733. Prior to the suspension, Smith had won the Sixth Man of the Year award and posted a regular-season average of 18.1 points per game.
Smith's disappearing act is a major reason for the Knicks going 3-5 during their past eight games and falling into a 3-2 hole against Indiana.
"My frustration level with myself is extremely high. I take the blame for this whole series." - J.R. Smith (28.1 FG % for series)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 15, 2013
The fact that Smith has owned up to his mistakes is a step in the right direction.
During Game 5, Smith managed to go for 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block. Shooting 4-of-11 from the field is far from ideal, but Smith put together his most well-rounded game of the series.
The next step for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is to find his jumper.
The 2013 NBA playoffs have had their fair share of thrills, but we've seen just one Game 7. As one of the 1990s greatest rivalries rages on, the competitive nature and tension is growing, thus leaving us with one belief.
This series is destined to go to Game 7.
The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks met in six playoff series from 1993 to 2000. As fate would have it, they split those series at an even 3-3, going to seven games twice.
How did those two series go? You guessed it—both Indiana and New York won a seven-game series, earning yet another even split of 1-1.
In 2013, the rubber match will transpire, as both teams look to win the latest leg and earn bragging rights for their storied franchises.
The Pacers have a major question mark, as they enter this game with George Hill battling a concussion. As the previously alluded to statistics displayed, the Pacers are significantly worse when Hill is off of the floor.
Expect the Knicks to take advantage.
J.R. Smith may be struggling, but he's long overdue for a bounce-back performance—keep in mind, he won the Sixth Man of the Year award for a reason.
By rediscovering his shooting touch, Smith would thus provide Carmelo Anthony with the supporting fire he's so desperately needed. More importantly, he'd command the attention necessary for the Knicks' record-setting crop of three-point shooters to thrive.
Indiana is an elite defensive unit, but New York set the all-time record for three-point field goals made in one season—a strength we've yet to see in this series.
Indiana is far from helpless in this battle, as David West and Paul George will pace the offense and Roy Hibbert will man the interior. With that being said, we've yet to see New York play anything close to its regular-season standards.
Indiana deserves to be favored, but we cannot stress enough how important Hill's injury will be—this is New York's game to lose.
New York Knicks 92, Indiana Pacers 88