By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers | Bankers Life Fieldhouse
When: Saturday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
Knicksnow Live In-Game Chat
The Knicks used a 30-2 second half run to take Game 2 (Tuesday), 105-79, and tie up the series at one game apiece.
New York: The Knicks had their best offensive effort of the postseason in Game 2, breaking the 100 point mark for the first time in eight playoff games. Better spacing and ball movement helped them attack matchup advantages in the half court and they shot 49.4% from the field as a team. But it should come as no surprise that their emphatic win also featured a dynamic defensive performance.
They executed an aggressive trapping scheme to force Indy into 21 turnovers, and converted them into 32 New York points. Carmelo Anthony had his most efficient game of the playoffs, scoring 32 points on 13-for-26 shooting, and his work playing denial defense on David West was integral to limiting the skilled big man to only seven shot attempts. Everyone pitched in, with Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton, and Kenyon Martin combining for 49 points on 21-for-30 (70 percent) shooting. After three days of practice, the Knicks expect to have Amar'e Stoudemire back in a limited role.
Indiana: With three minutes left in the third quarter of Game 2, the Pacers held a two point lead and a chance to take a 2-0 series lead heading home for Games 3 and 4. But from there the Knicks took over, smothering the Pacers, who, to a man, looked unprepared to make quick decisions under pressure. Throughout the night and especially during a 30-2 New York run, they had trouble getting the ball to West and Hibbert (seven shots apiece), and were unable to react when the Knicks blitzed them consistently and decisively. Paul George managed 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, but even he had trouble taking care of the ball, with a team-leading seven turnovers. Both George Hill and Lance Stephenson (8-for-24 between them) struggled to find space.
The Numbers Game
After losing the rebounding battle in Game 1, 44-30, the Knicks came back and outrebounded the Pacers in Game 2, 37-35.
Matchup to Watch
Pablo Prigioni vs. George Hill
It's not coincidence that the Knicks have won 19 of 24 games with Pablo Prigioni since became a starter. His feel for the game is invaluable for a team that relies so heavily on having two playmakers on the floor at all times. With the bigger Hill on him (Felton has been primarily matched up with Stephenson), he's been picking his spots masterfully. "He can shoot the three a lot better than people realize," says assistant coach Jim Todd. "If they go under those pick-and-rolls, he's capable of hitting that shot. He just doesn't look for it." He was 2-for-2 from deep in Game 2.
Prigioni's usual 94-feet pressure wreaks havoc on the unlucky soul tasked with bringing the ball up against him -- in Game 2 it was Hill, who had four turnovers. He's averaged 22 minutes a game in this postseason (his first in the NBA), but Todd noted that his impact on the team shows up in his plus/minus numbers -- the Knicks are 27 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court this postseason. Says Todd: "We'd like him to be on the floor as much as possible." It's not hard to see why.
What to Look For
Coach Todd pointed out that while the Knicks obviously had success running hard double teams at Indy's bigs and would be likely to continue with the strategy, the Pacers will have had four days to adjust. It will be up to the Knicks to be crisp with their rotations and decisive with their reads. However Indy combats the pressure could be the story to pay attention to. If they are going to have a chance, their perimeter guys will have to take care of the ball better.
Everyone will be looking to see how Stoudemire returns, how he looks and how he fits into the team on both ends of the floor. Woodson guessed he'd stay under 10-15 minutes, and we could see most of that time come while Melo rests...The Pacers bench was a big factor in their Game 1 win, but it disappeared on Tuesday -- Tyler Hansbrough and D.J. Augustin, in particular. Indy's two key reserves combine for 24 points in Game 1, but mustered only six on three shots in Game 2. Getting some production from them could be crucial to their chances tonight.