By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers | Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday | 3:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
Knicksnow Live In-Game Chat
New York: After winning in Cleveland on Friday, the Knicks' magic number for finishing with the 2 seed in the East shrunk to one game. That means that either a Knicks win or a Pacers loss in the remaining six combined games clinches home court advantage up to the Eastern Conference Finals and ensures a first round matchup with the 7 seed -- most likely to be Boston. The team waived Kurt Thomas and signed Solomon Jones, giving them 10 healthy bodies if Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin remain out for today.
Indiana: Considering the Knicks' recent 13-game winning streak, the fact that the Pacers are still only three games behind is a testament to how well Indy has played. They remain the league's top-ranked defensive team, and even though they are 20th in offensive efficiency, they have plenty of individuals who can put the ball in the hole. All-Star wing Paul George is a one-on-one threat, and the frontline of Roy Hibbert and David West matches up with anyone.
Last Time Out
New York: Thanks to 31 points apiece from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, the Knicks cruised past Cleveland, 101-91, on Friday.
Indiana: The Pacers put themselves in position to finish third in the East with a 117-109 loss to Brooklyn on Friday night.
The Numbers Game
Melo scored 30-plus points for the seventh consecutive game on Friday, tying Willie Naulls for the Knicks' second-longest such streak. Amar'e Stoudemire set the record (9) in 2010-11. (h/t: Knicks PR)
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. David West
Unlike the Knicks, Pacers starters have enjoyed solid health and continuity throughout the year -- the past two years, really, as their starters last year played in all 66 games after the lockout. David West is a problem for any team with his strength and ability to knock down jumpers (he shoots around 45% from 10-23 feet), but especially for a team that lacks size. Especially if the lineup remains short-handed, Melo will have to roll up his sleeves and play big. He's been great on the boards recently, pulling down 13.4 rebounds a game in his last five games.
What to Look For
If the Knicks are without Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin again, they will obviously be light on size against the bruising Pacers. New pickup Solomon Jones could help, but as we've seen the last two games, it takes a total team effort to box out and switch sharply on screens. Getting back in transition is also key, as it limits easy looks for an offense that struggles to score efficiently in the half court. The Pacers are physical from 1 to 5, so the Knicks will look to feed off the Garden crowd to lift them to a win and the 2 seed they've made it a goal to reach.