By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers | Bankers Life Fieldhouse
When: Wednesday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks went into the All-Star break with a record of 32-18, good for second in the Eastern Conference behind the defending champion Miami Heat. But that was all a precursor to a stretch run into the playoffs that starts tonight against the team nipping at their heals: the 32-21 Indiana Pacers. Even while enjoying his first All-Star appearance, Tyson Chandler spoke often of leading his team back to where it wants to be on the defensive end -- they 15th in the NBA in defensive efficiency right now. Both Rasheed Wallace and took part in some conditioning work in practice on Tuesday as they recover from injuries.
Indiana: The Pacers, only a game and a half behind New York in the standings, have found their groove after a slow start and are a fitting first matchup as the Knicks embark on a challenging second half of the season. They are currently the best defensive team in the league, allowing only 99.3 points per 100 possessions and won six of their last eight games leading up to the All-Star break. They were represented in Houston by phenomenal young small forward, Paul George.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks lost a week ago to the red hot Toronto Raptors at Madison Square garden, 92-88.
Indiana: The Pacers closed out the first half strong with a convincing 101-77 win over the Bobcats.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks have gone 8-5 since going with the starting lineup of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
Matchup to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. George Hill
The Knicks have had some trouble with strong opposing lead guards this season, and Hill certainly qualifies as that. Not the quickest, Hill does his damage by controlling the pace, using his size and making smart decisions. He shoots about 36 percent from 3, so the Knicks will have to keep an eye on him. He is strong defensively, good at cutting off penetration and keeping opponents from getting to their spots. Felton will need to focus on getting his teammates into the flow and facilitating ball movement, because few guards have success going 1-on-1 against the length and sicipline of the Pacers' D.
What to Look For
Coming out of the break, all we heard from the Knicks was that the season starts now with a focus on the playoffs. Starting the second half of the season against Indy, the team they will be battling for position, just seems fitting. The last time these two teams met, the Pacers clamped down on D, making things difficult for the Knicks, but that was without Carmelo Anthony. Indy is 26th out of 30 teams in pace, meaning they are slow and deliberate with their possessions and rarely get out in transition. The Knicks, as we've seen, are most successful when they get good ball movement and that will be especially true against the best defensive team in the league tonight.