Indiana Versus New York PreviewEastern Conference Second Round
#3 Indiana (49-32) vs. #2 New York (54-28)
Season series: Tied, 2-2
New York can win if…the Knicks shoot a high percentage from three point range, keep their turnover rate low and avoid making knucklehead moves on and off the court.
Indiana will win because…the Pacers are a suffocating defensive team that will force the Knicks out of their comfort zone. The Boston Celtics had a good game plan against the Knicks but they lacked the young legs necessary to execute that game plan over the course of a seven game series; the Pacers are well stocked with young, talented players.
Other things to consider: Much like a boxer who "carries" an inferior opponent instead of knocking him out, the Knicks buried the Celtics into a 3-0 hole but--after a series of knucklehead moves on and off the court--the Knicks then dropped two games before barely holding to victory in game six to close out the series. Give the Celtics credit for fighting hard and for being well coached but the Knicks showed signs of reverting back to some lamentable habits: sloppy offensive execution punctuated by low percentage shots or turnovers, indifferent transition defense and collective immaturity (including J.R. Smith's flagrant foul that cost him a one game suspension and the Knicks wearing ludicrious "funeral" outfits prior to losing game five).
Is it possible to win a championship with a roster that includes three players with knucklehead tendencies? You never know when Carmelo Anthony is going to start trying to drill holes in the hardwood while dribbling the basketball as his teammates watch helplessly, J.R. Smith can shoot either team into/out of the game and Kenyon Martin provides defense/physicality but he can also provide momentum for the opposing team with ill-timed fouls/silly plays. Anthony shot often (26.7 FGA/game) versus the Celtics but he did not shoot accurately (.381 FG%, .265 3FG%). He averaged 5.3 rpg--subpar for a small forward, let alone a power forward (the position he now plays in New York's small lineup)--and 1.8 apg and he played his usual indifferent defense; he can be a deadly--at time unstoppable--scorer but his individual statistics and lack of team success in the playoffs throughout his career show that he is not really an elite player, regardless of how much he is hyped up by the media.
Indiana's frontcourt of center Roy Hibbert, power forward David West and small forward Paul George matches up very well with New York's frontcourt of center Tyson Chandler, power forward Carmelo Anthony and small forward Iman Shumpert; the Pacers have great size, length, versatility and toughness.
This should be a very competitive, hard fought series and the Knicks certainly have enough talent to win but the way that they concluded the Boston series hardly inspires confidence that they are primed for a long playoff run.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:40 PM