Who: New York Knicks (3-6) vs. Indiana Pacers (9-1)
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Wednesday, Nov. 20th at 7:00 pm ET
TV Channel: ESPN
The last time the Knicks and Pacers met was in May, when Indiana ended New York’s season in convincing fashion. Though the Eastern Conference Semifinal went to six games, the Pacers stifled the Knicks on defense, outhustled, and outrebounded the New York squad in nearly every game. The Knicks were held to a paltry 89.5 points per game and shot 43% or less from the field in five of six contests.
Since that series, these teams have gone in two contrasting directions. After taking the Miami Heat to a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana retooled its roster with strong off-season moves. They transformed their weak bench by adding veteran big-man Luis Scola, scoring forward Chris Copeland, and guard C.J. Watson. They re-signed David West to a fair $36 million deal and returned Danny Granger from injury. The Pacers sit at 9-1 and are playing some of the best basketball in the league. They’re allowing a league-best 86.3 points per game and watching Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson turn into game-changing pieces. If you haven’t jumped onto the bandwagon yet, you should think about it. These guys are the real deal.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have experienced less success both in the off-season and, consequently, in regular-season results. Their controversial blockbuster move sent three draft picks and a bevy of role players to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Italian big-man, Andrea Bargnani. While Bargnani has performed admirably given extra minutes, his extended play is at the cost of Tyson Chandler, severely injured just four games into the season. $21 million dollar man Amare Stoudemire is boasting an anemic three points per game while J.R. Smith is shooting 22% from the field since returning from suspension. While the on-the-court play has been uninspiring, the off-the-court buzz has been equally troubling. Carmelo Anthony, who recently questioned the team’s effort, has implied that he will test free agency, and Coach Mike Woodson’s seat gets hotter and hotter with every new tally in the L column. Oh, did I mention Iman Shumpert had secret knee surgery this summer that the team didn’t report as to not decrease his trade value? Well, he did. The Knicks now sit at 3-6 as they take on Indiana.
In a nice piece highlighting the Knicks 2014 problems, Mike Kurylo (@KnickerBlogger) of KnickerBlogger (almost comically) cites “Shooting” and “Opponent Shooting” as two of the Knicks’ three main problems this season. As for the offensive side of the ball:
“New York currently ranks 23rd in offensive efficient field goal percentage at 47.4%, and that is the main reason the Knicks are only 17th on offense in the NBA. The Knicks were 3rd overall last year, so this is a serious decline. At the center of the problem are Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. If Felton’s eFG% of 40.8% can be described as horrendous, then the thesaurus is at a loss for Smith’s 33.2%. For the former, one has to wonder if the loss of his pick & role partner in Tyson Chandler is bothering Felton. Bargnani is more of a pick & pop guy, and the Knicks seem to be using him with ‘Melo more than Felton. As for Smith, there are a couple of theories on why his shooting has hit the toilet. Could it be just plain rust, due to the lack of a full preseason? Could there be a lingering physical issue from his injury? Or is it Smith’s full commitment to his social life that has affected his on the court play?”
While the Knicks will certainly need Smith to improve his shooting percentages, they’ll also need him to make a commitment to defense if he wants to stand a chance against Paul George or Stephenson tomorrow night. Same goes for the Italian Stallion:
“J.R. Smith is +17.1 in terms of opposing field goal percentage. That is other teams are shooting 65.2% while he’s on the floor. So in essence he’s stinking up both ends of the floor, and probably a few nightclub bathrooms as well. The second culprit is Andrea Bargnani. His shooting has improved enough to get the Garden boo-birds off his back, and he’s experiencing the second highest rebound rate of his career. However when he steps on the court, opposing teams become better shooters by +12.9 points. Coincidence?”
On The Phil Naessens Show podcast, Phil Naessens (@flashtennis31) and Tom Lewis (@IndyCornrows) of Indy Cornrows talk about this Pacers-Knicks matchup. The game preview starts at about 47:20 and neither Naessens nor Lewis can quite put a finger on what to expect from New York. Lewis explains:
“New York is really just struggling to get going here and they have weapons and you kind of figure one of these nights JR Smith is going to go off. And you know, they have the combustible parts to put a whooping on you for no reason other than their sort of shooting it right on that one night so that’s always a little worry but the Pacers defense- I’m sure they’re going to spend plenty of time on those defensive points over the next couple of days and hopefully they’ll be ready to go.”
You can hear the entire podcast here.
As Lewis alludes, there’s just no knowing when the Knicks will go off for 120 points. One would assume that this stiff Pacers defense would have no part of such a showing, but crazier things have happened in the NBA this season (am I right, Michael Carter Williams?). Are 40 points from Anthony ever out of the question? 30 from Smith? New York will certainly need excellent performances across the board if they want any chance to hang with the NBA’s best. As for the Pacers, they’ll continue to play hard and smart, working toward a top seed in the East going forward.
Jesse Moskowitz (@Jesse_Moskowitz) is a regular contributor of NBA, NCAAF, NFL, and MLB coverage to the movoli blog.
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- What did the Knicks expect? (sbnation.com)
- What Is the Blueprint for This New York Knicks Roster? (bleacherreport.com)
- Knicks Recap With Andrew Sutton (knickswag.com)