The Pacers starting lineup has played more than half the minutes in the series so far. Expect Indiana to continue relying heavily on their starting core. Thus far it’s their only group with more than three minutes together on the court and a positive plus-minus.
The minutes Coach Vogel doles out to the likes of Ian Mahinmi, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, and D.J. Augustin will be even more important as the series goes on. Game 2 changed when, after taking a 64-62 lead, Vogel called timeout and inserted Pendergraph for Hibbert. In those precious minutes without a true rim protector on the court, the Knicks attacked. Look for Vogel to tighten up his rotation even further relying on only Augustin, Hansbrough and slight doses of Mahinmi moving forward.
The Knicks have their own big man to work into the rotation -- Amare Stoudemire. Coach Woodson said he’ll only play him 10-15 minutes in Game 3, but picking those minutes will be crucial. Stoudemire offers the Knicks something new on the offensive end that they have been sorely lacking in this series. STAT’s ability to pick-and-pop adds yet another wrinkle to the offense. Without Stoudemire the Knicks pick-and-rolls typically end one of three ways: a drive to the rim, a kick out pass, or a lob to Tyson Chandler. With Stoudemire, those options remain but the ball handler can also hit Stoudemire for a 16-foot jumper -- something he’s more than capable of knocking down with consistency. The Pacers will likely counter this action by switching. This will allow Stoudemire to put the ball on the floor without Hibbert or West standing in his way.
Both teams have challenges ahead regarding their big man rotations. It will be interesting to see which coach plays the right guys at the right time.
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