By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (27-40): After a stretch against some of the NBA's lottery-bound teams, the Knicks roll into tonight's showdown with Indy looking to keep a six game winning streak alive. The Atlanta Hawks (4.5 games ahead fof N.Y. for the final spot in the East and winners of five straight) aren't doing the Knicks any favors, but the Knicks can only control what they do. And over the winning streak, they have been scoring around 115 points per game while playing their best defense of the season. The most recent victory came in dominant fashion against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday afternoon at MSG, giving the Knicks a few days to prepare for tonight's matchup.
Indiana (50-17): The Pacers have the best record in the Eastern Conference and a three-game lead on Miami for home court advantage. Frank Vogel's team has made no secret of the fact that they want to finish first in the conference, and they are on the way to doing so thanks in large part to a defense that once again ranks No. 1 in the league. But Indy is not bulletproof, as their current four game win streak (against all lottery teams) comes on the heels of a four game losing streak (against all playoff teams). Their margin for error is not especially large, as they rank 20th in the NBA in offensive efficiency.
The Numbers Game
After playing most of the year with a below average offensive rating, the Knicks are now up to 11th in the NBA, scoring 107.9 points per 100 possessions.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul George
Last season, the Knicks-Pacers matchups featured a fascinating series of cross matches, with New York's two-point-guard lineups going up against the impressive length of Indy's conventional starting five. You'd see Anthony guarding David West, with the Pacers turning around and "hiding" West on Iman Shumpert on the other end. With the recent switch to a more traditional starting lineup for Mike Woodson, Melo and George are likely to go head to head tonight. After winning the NBA's Most Improved Player Award last season, George has taken his game to another level, making a jump from 16.8 to 21 in player efficiency rating (PER) this year.
What to Look For
In addition to George's ascension to the level of superstar, starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson has also made himself into a formidable offensive playmaker and versatile cog in the Pacers' cohesive defensive scheme. With top Defensive Player of the Year candidate Roy Hibbert patrolling the lane, the Knicks will need to work together and move the ball to find holes in the Pacers' defense...Indiana traded away Danny Granger and got back Evan Turner, a move hailed by many as a net positive, but Turner's efficiency remains a concern...The Knicks' depth has emerged as a strength over the past few weeks, with big men Jeremy Tyler and Cole Aldrich turning in serviceable performances when called upon to fill in for Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire.