By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers | Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday | 3:30 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
Knicksnow Live In-Game Chat
New York: After taking a 3-0 series lead, the Knicks survived a spirited Boston comeback and emerged after six games as Round 1 winners. It was a total team effort, with guys like Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni stepping up in support of All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Now they face Indiana, having overcome some real playoff adversity. You could see them being better for it, more prepared for the inevitable cold shooting stretch or Pacers run they will face.
The team flew back from Boston after the game on Friday and practiced yesterday to get ready for Game 1 against a brand new opponent for the first time in two weeks. Despite the physical nature of the Celtics series, the Knicks are mostly healthy heading into Round 2. Melo says his arm/shoulder is "fine" and Chandler says he feels as good as he's felt all year -- and he looks it. Steve Novak missed Game 6 with a back injury, so his status is uncertain.
Indiana: While many expected the Knicks and Celtics series to be competitive, the Pacers were thought to be heavy favorites over the Hawks, with their infamous recent history of first round exits. But Indiana found itself in the same position as the Knicks, fighting to advance before finally prevailing after six games.
The Pacers split four games with the Knicks this season, and pose a formidable threat in any matchup because of their ability to defend. They led the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season, allowing only 96.6 points per 100 possessions. and have continued at that level so far this postseason. Paul George and David West, who both averaged about 17 points and eight rebounds per game during the regular season, jump out as their best offensive players.
The Numbers Game
Shumpert took his game to another level as the first round went on, becoming a consistent catalyst for the Knicks on the both ends of the floor. In the last three games against Boston, he averaged 13.7 points, eight rebounds and 2.3 steals in 37 minutes per game.
Matchup to Watch
Iman Shumpert vs. David West
That's right, this is not a typo. As crazy as it sounds, we could see West (listed at 6'9" and 240 lbs.) on Shumpert at times -- even right from the start. The last time they played, Indy elected to start with George on Melo, leaving West to "hide" on Shump. In that matchup, Shumpert punished West and the Pacers, scoring 10 quick points and forcing them to make adjustments. As Indy directs its attention toward Melo and J.R. Smith on the wings, Shumpert could have some opportunities to pick his spots on offense.
What to Look For
On paper, we have two teams that appear evenly matched. Protecting home court could be crucial for the Knicks, who are facing a team that was actually under .500 (19-21) on the road this year. The Pacers play slow, ranking 25th in pace during the season, so don't be surprised if play tends to look like it did last series.
Indy has a profile that's similar to Boston, just younger, bigger and deeper. They play physical defense and have difficulty scoring in the half court, and they also struggle with the turnover. Expect the Knicks to pressure Pacers guards George Hill and Lance Stephenson with a team approach and a healthy dose of Shumpert and Prigioni.