Knicks vs. Pacers 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
New York: Following a surprise coaching change and a 42-point blowout home victory, the Knicks returned to Madison Square Garden Training Center to find some normalcy in preparation for the huge back-to-back set against the Pacers. Interim head coach Mike Woodson enjoyed his first opportunity to instruct a full practice session on Thursday and started to implement some of the changes he believes will help the team reach the postseason. As of Thursday night, the Knicks are tied with the Bucks for the final spot in the Eastern Conference while trailing Boston by 4.5 games for No. 7. New York enters a crucial set of games with a home-road, back-to-back set against the Pacers. At 19-24, the Knicks will play their next three of five games on the road but will host Indiana on Friday night to conclude the brief two-game homestand.
Indiana: Last season, the Pacers were a surprise squad as they secured a No. 8 seed in the playoffs and battled the Bulls in four extremely close games. Chicago eventually dispatched Indiana in six but the up and coming Pacers showed promise for the future. Head coach Frank Vogel began the 2011-12 campaign with a couple of new additions, including David West, George Hill, and Luis Amundson. Through 41 games, Indiana sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with room to elevate, just 2.5 games behind Orlando for No. 3. The team also made a trade deadline move by acquiring the super quick guard from Toronto, Leandro Barbosa in exchange for a second-round draft pick and cash considerations.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks absolutely destroyed the visiting Blazers 121-79 on Wednesday night. In the win, J.R. Smith scored 23 points and Baron Davis dished out 10 dimes off the pine.
Indiana: The Pacers have won two straight games following four consecutive losses. The latest victory occurred on Wednesday night in an impressive 111-94 win over the Sixers.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks are fresh off a game in which they held Portland to a season low 29 points in the first half, scored a season best 43 fourth quarter points, dished out a season high 35 assists, scored a season high 121 points, and forced a season high 27 turnovers.
Match-up to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Danny Granger
Danny Granger is the Pacers top scoring threat as he possesses a nice perimeter jumper and an athletic game off the bounce. Over his last five games, Granger is shooting around 46 percent from the floor while averaging 18 points per game this season. On the opposite side, Anthony will attempt to duplicate his well-rounded performance from Wednesday night. The Knicks All-Star scored eight of his 16 points in the first quarter and finished with seven assists. His aggressive play early set the tone for New York in a huge blowout 42-point home victory. At Thursday’s practice, Anthony reiterated the point that he is the leader of the Knicks and needs to be held accountable for the wins and losses. Consistency is the key and another strong performance against a top small forward will prove that point on Friday night.
What to Look For
Indiana is a solid, all-around ball club that utilizes a team effort in order to captures wins over more talented teams. This is evident by the Pacers No. 4 ranking in rebounds per game and No. 4 position in points allowed per game at 92.1. Additionally, Indiana’s bench is fairly deep and it will challenge the Knicks second unit, especially after they dropped a combined 72 points on Portland. The bench production will once again play a major factor in Friday’s outcome. New York must come out with the same type of urgency displayed against the Blazers and it should record back-to-back wins.