Definitive Guide to Pacers vs. Knicks and Wednesday's Top NBA Games

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

Definitive Guide to Pacers vs. Knicks and Wednesday's Top NBA Games

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    Name one NBA team off the top of your head that is not scheduled to play on Wednesday.

    Try again. And again. Then again still. If you truly tried to pinpoint who it was off on the fly, you're probably wrong. Almost every team is in action, as we prepare for a loaded Wednesday-night lineup.

    The Brooklyn Nets are still searching for a morale booster and may have found the perfect opponent in the Charlotte Bobcats. Kevin Love's Minnesota Timberwolves will be looking to avenge a previous loss to the defensively challenged Los Angeles Clippers. Paul George's Indiana Pacers are journeying to the Big Apple, where a sorry New York Knicks organization still hoping to turn strained beets into ice cream awaits.

    There's more, too. Hump Day has never been filled with so much promise, so much action.

    Table any and all errands you need to tackle—save for a munchies run—because you're booked through tonight.

    Wednesday Night's Lineup

    Brooklyn Nets vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 7 p.m. ET

    Washington Wizards vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m. ET

    Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Miami Heat vs. Orlando Magic, 7 p.m. ET

    Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 7 p.m. ET

    Detroit Pistons vs. Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Portland Trail Blazers vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 8 p.m. ET

    Los Angeles Clippers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET

    Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m. ET

    Boston Celtics vs. San Antonio Spurs, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

    Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. ET

    *All stats used in this article are from Basketball-Reference and accurate as of Nov. 18, unless otherwise attributed.

Best Matchup of the Night: Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Eastern Conference semifinals rematch, say what?

    It wasn't long ago that the Knicks and Pacers were fighting for the same thing—a shot at the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fast forward a few months, and they're now in completely different places.

    Indy is hoping to snag its league-leading 10th win, continuing its assault on the rest of the conference. New York is simply longing for a victory in general, before it falls even further down the ladder of respectability.

    Led by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks have been atrocious. They're like that girlfriend or boyfriend you don't want to introduce to the family—not because they're too suave, but because they're awkward, hapless and smell like day-old hummus. 

    To say things are bad in New York would be an understatement. The Knicks are in dire straights. They currently rank 18th in offensive efficiency and 28th in defense. It's been tough sledding.

    The Pacers continue to make opposing offenses look like putty in their hands. They have the second-best defense in the league right now and have allowed more than 100 points just once. Coming off their first loss of the season to the Chicago Bulls, look for them to punish a reeling Knicks offense.

    Look again, and you might just see them make a Thanksgiving feast out of stale dip. 

Must-See Individual Matchup: John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving

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    Though I was incredibly tempted to list "Roy Hibbert's Hands vs. the Entire Knicks Team" here, a Kyrie Irving-John Wall matchup seemed more appropriate.

    Cleveland and Washington met just a few days ago, and Irving went Supernova, going for 41 points on 14-of-28 shooting. Wall didn't have as glamorous of an outing, connecting on just three of his 13 shots for a season-low nine points. His 12 assists helped quell his ugly game a little, but not enough. The Cavs emerged from the Verizon Center with a 103-96 victory.

    On Wednesday, Wall seeks revenge—and a better clip from the field. He wouldn't turn down a fourth victory of the season, either. Nor would Irving shy away from leading his Cavs to win No. 5. 

    Both point guards have been designated superstars, even if a bit prematurely. Their respective teams were supposed to be playoff bound with them leading the way, as they served as thorns in the side of every other Eastern Conference faction.

    But either outfit is playing like crap. Or the Nets. Same difference, really. They continue to reside near the bottom of the field, and while it's still early, the wins must start piling up. For one of Irving or Wall, the piling (of wins) won't be starting on Wednesday.

    Which one will be left lamenting a loss? My crystal ball is on the fritz, so I recommend you watch and see for yourself. 

Who Has the Most on the Line?

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    Inauspicious beginnings haven't disqualified the Knicks from title contention.

    "It's still early," you might say. "What makes you so certain Cole Aldrich isn't the savior this team was searching for?"

    Early season meltdowns won't be acceptable excuses for much longer. New York cannot get by on its potential or what the roster says on paper. The Knicks need to prove themselves worthy of faith—like three games ago. They're running out of time.

    Coach Woody is running out of time. Soon enough, owner James Dolan will retrieve an axe from his shed and unleash hell on his coach. Iman Shumpert is running out of time. Any day, any loss now, could inspire Dolan to flip him for a bag of Skittles.

    Anthony is running out of time. Whispers of his incompetence are already spreading, and if he cannot lift his Knicks to a victory, a convincing victory, it's his ability as a leader that will be degraded. 

    "We're going to get this together," Kenyon Martin said following their loss to the Detroit Pistons, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). "Teams go through slumps like that during a season, but we are doing it in November, so it gets magnified. We just have to figure out our problems on offense."

    If only we could believe him. Lethargic losses, fluctuating efforts and the absence of fluidity on offense has taught us better. We don't trust the Knicks. How could we? They've been that bad.

    Win against a gritty, dominant Pacers team, and we'll be compelled to reconsider. Lose, and the Knicks will find themselves shackled even tighter to the private hell they created for themselves.

Injury Report

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    The downside of there being so many teams in action? There are plenty of injuries trying to rain on your channel-flipping parade.

    Atlanta Hawks

    Paul Millsap (elbow): Millsap sat out of Atlanta's loss to Miami. The Hawks could certainly use his scoring against a streaky team like Detroit.

    Boston Celtics

    Rajon Rondo (knee): At least Danny Ainge hasn't traded him for spare parts just yet.

    Brooklyn Nets

    Andrei Kirilenko (back): The New York Daily News' Mitch Abramson says AK47 is still a few days away from returning. Brooklyn really needs his stout perimeter defense in the rotation. 

    Brook Lopez (ankle): Brooklyn's big man declared himself ready to play, per Abramson. Jason Kidd wasn't ready to make the same commitment, leaving Brolo as a game-time decision.

    Deron Williams (ankle): D-Will is expected to return to the lineup against the Bobcats, according to Abramson. The Nets offense has been stagnant without him, so this will be a much-needed boost.

    Charlotte Bobcats

    Al Jefferson (ankle): Jeffy Jeff is doubtful, according to The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell. His continued ankle issues are really killing the 'Cats' mediocre vibe.

    Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry (head): A concussion will keep Curry out of Golden State's bout against Memphis, per the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson. Just be glad it's not his ankle.

    Miami Heat

    Dwyane Wade (knee): ESPN's Michael Wallace says Wade will sit out a second consecutive game for the Heat, giving him a full week off. No pressure, LeBron.

    New York Knicks

    Tyson Chandler (leg): When Chandler is healthy, the Knicks have a fighting chance at playing defense. Without him? Not so much.

    Orlando Magic

    Tobias Harris (ankle): This is turning into quite the dilemma. Hopefully, Harris will be back soon.

    Philadelphia 76ers

    Michael Carter-Williams (foot): If the Sixers really want to lose against the Raptors, Carter-Williams will miss his fifth straight game.

    Nerlens Noel (knee): I wonder if Carter-Williams and him are allowed to play PS4 in the locker room together during games.

    Phoenix Suns

    Eric Bledsoe (shin): AZ Central's Paul Coro says that Bledsoe is doing better than anticipated, so he may play against the Kings. Breathe, Phoenix. Breathe.

    *Injury information obtained from CBS Sports unless otherwise attributed.

Pop-in Potential: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Unlike that creepy smile on Blake Griffin and the homeless scruff on Love's face above, this contest is going to be good.

    Los Angeles took down Minny in the first meeting of the season 109-107, behind a combined 46 points from Griffin and Chris Paul. Love and Kevin Martin combined for 53, but the Timberwolves still came up short at the buzzer.

    The Clippers are currently a half-game ahead of the T-Wolves out West and are looking to rebound from a bad home loss to the Grizzlies on Monday. Paul and friends have struggled on the road early on, though. They're 2-3, while the Timberwolves are a suffocating 5-1 on their own turf. 

    Minny has also established a more balanced attack than its counterpart. The T-Wolves rank in the top six of both offensive and defensive efficiency, the only team in the league currently laying claim to such a feat. Doc Rivers' crew, meanwhile, ranks second and 29th, respectively.

    In the early going, the Clippers haven't defended like a typical Rivers team. They've been straight-up awful. Spoiled-milk-mixed-with-moldy-bread putrid. I mean, they gave up 106 points to the Grizzliesthe Memphis freakin' Grizzlies, who's offense is about as potent as a ritz cracker...in that it's not.

    Flimsy defensive sets aren't going to get the Clippers very far. You cannot outscore every team on every night. You can, however, hope that Paul continues to play like God squared. But even then, Los Angeles has to worry about Love's standing double-doubles and full-court outlets, Ricky Rubio's incisive drives and Martin's pact with Near Perfection, the patron saint of not missing.

    Tune in to see which Western Conference power leaves with a Griffin-like smile on their face.

Fantasy Stock Watch

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    You're going to have fantasy lineup problems tonight; it's inevitable.

    Only four teams aren't in action Wednesday, meaning there are 26 others poised to get too much spit in your whistle. Logjams are going to be created, and you'll be forced to make decisions that are more difficult than starting Dwight Howard over Andris Biedrins.

    All of your fantasy problems won't be solved here, mostly because I could be facing you. But you will find some valuable sources of intel and perhaps even some solace in knowing a few certain someones are headed for superhero-type performances.

    The Big Guns

    Roy Hibbert

    I cannot promise you that he's going to reverse-posterize 'Melo again, but I can tell you he'll have a field day against New York's abysmal defense.

    The Knicks are allowing almost 42 points, per TeamRankings.com, in the paint every night and remain without Chandler. Almost assuredly, Hibbert will find himself being defended by Amar'e Stoudemire, Martin or Andrea Bargnani. Aldrich could even see some time.

    On the other end, he'll be tasked with guarding Martin and/or STAT, two aging vets with deteriorating offensive games. Defending Bargs will be a difficult assignment if it comes to that. Hibbert isn't known for defending off the dribble, and Bargs' bouncy hair can be a distraction.

    Still, nothing I've just said should stop Hibbert from making a dwarf out of the Knicks.

    LeBron James

    King James was held to a season-low 13 points in a win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.

    Dear Lord Baby Jesus help the Magic.

    The Sleeper

    Jamal Crawford

    Minnesota's bench is bad. It is downright horrible and primed to be picked apart by a former Sixth Man of the Year.

    Jamal Crawford has scored 18 or more points four times already this season, and against the Timberwolves' second unit, who is currently allowing more points than any other supporting cast in the NBA, per HoopsStats.com, it wouldn't be surprising to see him hit 20—or more.

    The key for him is remaining active as a playmaker, which again, is plausible when facing Minnesota. If you're in a quick bind and in need of points and assists, or even just a guard who looks like an oversized elf, Crawford's your guy.