By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Pacers | Bankers Life Fieldhouse
When: Saturday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
Knicksnow Live In-Game Chat
Facing elimination at home, the Knicks came out with energy and emerged with an 85-75 win.
New York: After falling down 3-1, the Knicks took care of the immediate task at hand of winning Game 5 at home. Their team shooting percentage jumped up to 41% after toiling around 35 in Games 3 and 4, thanks to a return to the "small" lineup that made them so successful during the year and the insertion of Chris Copeland (13 points in 20 minutes) into the rotation. The offense was crisper than it had been for most of the playoffs, starting with Carmelo Anthony (28 points) and J.R. Smith, who looks like he's begun to break out of his shooting slump.
Perhaps the main reason for the win, though, was the collective commitment to rebounding the ball; the Knicks only pulled down three fewer boards than the bigger Pacers, and a handful of wings were the ones who made the difference. Melo, J.R., and Iman Shumpert had six rebounds apiece, while Raymond Felton had five and Copeland had four in his time. Coach Woodson emphasized the possession battle, and his team showed that on the glass and by forcing 19 Indy turnovers.
Indiana: The Pacers found out that they'd be without point guard George Hill in the afternoon before Game 5, after he experienced concussion symptoms during shootaround. Combined with the boost the Knicks got from returning to play in front of their home fans, it was a real blow to Indy's chances of closing out the series. Without their floor leader, they turned the ball over and struggled to find open looks on offense, shooting 36% as a team. Coach Frank Vogel also called it "one of those nights," on which they made only 19 of 33 free throws (58%) and never were able to come back after falling behind right away. Hill's status for Game 6 is unknown and is subject to the NBA's concussion policy, which can be found here.
The Numbers Game
Free throw shooting could be key: In the Pacers' two losses, they shot 61 and 58 percent, respectively. They've been over 70% in each of their three wins.
Matchup to Watch
J.R. Smith vs. D.J. Augustin
This isn't so much a matchup to watch as it is perhaps each team's most important players to watch. If Hill can't go, it'll be up to Augustin to again try to fill his minutes on both ends of the floor. He can do some things on offense, but defensively, he's undersized and Felton could take advantage of him in Game 6. Smith remains the Knicks' X-factor, whatever that means. His 13-point, 6-rebound, 2-assist and 3-steal performance on Thursday signified a gigantic step forward not just in its sheer volume but the way it happened. Struggling with confidence, he came out and made his first shot. From there, he seemed to make quicker, better decisions on offense and that helped him become more engaged in their overall approach. He was crucial to their team rebounding efforts. His defense was again a factor, diving on the floor and causing havoc that led to easy buckets. If he plays like he did in Game 5 again, we could be in for a Game 7 on Monday.
What to Look For
Obviously, Hill's status bears watching. His length and decision making are important to what the Pacers do, and without him they are forced to ask more of other players, in terms of both minutes and responsibilities, that they are not completely comfortable with. As mentioned, Augustin can handle the ball and shoot a little bit, but hes not Hill. And he certainly doesn't contribute to their defensive scheme what Hill does. Lance Stephenson sharing ball handling duties is also not ideal for Indy, neither are the leftover minutes for the likes of Gerald Green and Sam Young.
The Knicks had success returning to their dual point guard look in the starting lineup, so I'd expect to see that continue. Copeland was a real boost off the bench, and we should expect to see more of that tonight...The home team has jumped out to fast starts in each of the last three games and never looked back, so how the Knicks are able to start in a hostile arena could be crucial to the outcome. If it's anything like Game 5, they certainly have a chance.