By Brian Faith, Knicks Fan Since ‘93
The Knicks and Pacers are set to clash in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Indiana will bring a league-leading defense, the NBA’s Most Improved Player in Paul George, and a big front line to MSG on Sunday afternoon.
Before looking ahead, a couple thoughts on the Boston series, and how some things may or may not carry over into the second round:
Raymond Felton was the most consistent player for the Knicks against the Celtics. His decision-making in pick-and-rolls, shot-making, and ability to finish near the rim had him controlling the floor on the offensive end. Also, his defense on Paul Pierce, undersized and all, was fantastic all series long. At this point, as Felton goes, so goes the Knicks offense.
Iman Shumpert is coming into his own as a major contributor for this veteran Knicks team. Against the Celtics, he was fresher, more explosive, and displayed a poise not seen in most second-year players on a big time playoff stage. Whether it was a timely steal, or a dagger three-pointer, Shumpert raised his game to a new level. His continued emergence, especially on the defensive side of the floor, will be key for New York’s defense on Paul George.
On offense, the Knicks will need to continue to move the ball, and get contributions from everyone. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith will need to attack early if they’re in one-on-one situations, or else move the ball when they see a double team coming. That’s how the Knicks ultimately vanquished the Celtics, and that’s what they’ll need to do to defeat Indiana.
The Knicks' defense against Boston was outstanding. Other than a few slip-ups in transition, they dominated the Celtics' aging stars. New York gave up just 90.8 points per 100 possessions across six games, the second best mark in the playoffs behind San Antonio (who played against Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris). That kind of stifling defense will be needed once again, especially against George.
Let’s take a look ahead at what else we can expect from the Pacers.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats.