By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers – Bankers Life Fieldhouse
When: Thursday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: After winning their first 10 home games this season, the Knicks have dropped four of their last seven at the Garden. They will look to turn things around as they head to Indiana, following a particularly tough loss to swallow on Monday night against the division-rival Celtics. The team has recently welcomed back Amar’e Stoudemire, who has increased his scoring output each of his first four games back, but should see more limited action against the Pacers at the doctor's request. Carmelo Anthony is expected to miss the game due to a one-game suspension.
Indiana: After a slow start to the season, the Pacers look like a completely different team of late. When they lost to the Knicks at the Garden back in November, it was their 7th in the season’s first 11 games. But since that game, they’ve reeled off 17 wins in the 24 games and head coach Frank Vogel has them in first place in the Central Division. They are led on the perimeter by Paul George (17 points and seven rebounds per game) and in the post by David West (17 and 8).
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks lost a physical game to the Celtics on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, 102-96.
Indiana: The Pacers are coming off of their most impressive victory of the season, in which they outrebounded Miami by 19 on the way to an 87-77 victory Tuesday night.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks lead the league with a turnover rate differential of 4.73, meaning that their own turnover rate is low (10.59% of possessions) and their opponents’ is high (14.96%). Indiana is 2nd-worst in this category, at -2.09.
Match-up to Watch
Ronnie Brewer vs. Paul George
Strength meets strength as the Pacers most gifted perimeter threat, Paul George, will likely square off against one of the Knicks' best perimeter defenders in Brewer. George, who is listed at 6-foot-8 but has grown significantly since entering the league, has excellent size for the position and uses it to get his shot off against most defenders. He shoots 38 percent from three, but also has the athleticism to penetrate and finish at the rim. He played mostly shooting guard until this year, but his size, combined with Lance Stephenson’s emergence in the starting lineup has allowed him to play a more traditional role for his newly-acquired size. Brewer consistently draws assignments covering elite wings, and against Indy that will be the case again. He will have to keep George off the 3-point line (where he made four against Miami on Tuesday) and the boards (he pulled down 11 of those). Look for Brewer to attack the basket in order to put pressure on George and ideally get him into foul trouble.
What to Look For
With Melo out and Stoudemire limited, coach Mike Woodson will need other guys to step up. Look for J.R. Smith, who is averaging 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals over his last nine games to continue to be heavily involved in the offense when he is on the floor. He and Jason Kidd will need to pay special attention to George and Stephenson, both threats to shoot it or put the ball on the floor. After a slow start to the season, Roy Hibbert is playing better of late and is always dangerous with his size and passing ability.