Knicks @ Pacers: MSG 7pm
The Knicks are back and facing one of their toughest tests and oldest rivals, the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers sit just 1.5 games behind the Knicks. The two teams split their two matchups this far, with both teams unable to break 90 points in a game. The Pacers boast the second best home record in the East, at 21-5. The Pacers strength is their defense and they are ranked first in every single key defensive statistic; defensive efficiency, points allowed per game, opponents field goal and three point field goal percentage. They are also first in rebounding rate. Defense and rebounding win games, period. With all that being said, there offensive is really struggling as Roy Hibbert has gone from being an All Star last year to shooting just 41% from the field. The Knicks will have the ability to get their defense going against this less than stellar offensive bunch.
The Pacers have been hot as of late, winning six of their last eight, boasting impressive home wins over the Hawks, Heat, and Bulls. Both teams will be thirsty after the All Star break and this is a nice measuring stick, to see if the Knicks made any adjustments or if they are willing to put forth more effort defensively.
Coach Woodson mentioned the starting lineup will remain the same. The Knicks struggles of late have been well documented, especially on the defensive end. They are simply unable to stop any dribble penetration and they are extremely undisciplined when switching. This must change immediately and it starts with Raymond Felton being more accountable to his assignments and staying in front of his man. We all know Jason Kidd is unable to keep point guards in front of him with his age, but Felton must get better, at least until Iman Shumpert comes back to 100%. Shump is accustomed to guarding shooting and point guards, but with this new lineup, he’s guarding much bigger small forwards. Against Indiana, he will be facing first time All Star this year, Paul George, who is one of the best defensive small forwards in the NBA.
It may be time for Coach Woodson to place Ronnie Brewer back in at the three and move Iman Shumpert to the shooting guard as Jason Kidd has been unable to make any shots since mid December. If Kidd is not giving you any offense, the Knicks need their best defender on the floor against guards. In the last 9 games as Tommy Beer from Hoops World reports, Kidd has shot 20% from three and 24% from the field overall. Just a thought as we all know Brewer’s confidence has waned since his stellar November. His ability to hit the corner three and play defense in November was the most underrated facet of the Knicks great start, I believe more than the play of Rasheed Wallace. Brewer went from shooting 41% from three in November to 15% in December, thus his exodus from the lineup. This may be why the Knicks are looking for a consistent shooter ala Redick or Dudley to make the Knicks, what I call “November Potent” offensively.
The Knicks need to figure out their rotation and get back to making defense first; their offense will come if they continue to share the ball and give Melo a chance to score easy baskets in mid range or in the post. David West will be on Melo, who is a much bigger and slower defender to start, so he should be able to take advantage. In their last meeting, a Pacer win in Indiana, the Knicks lost by just five and they were without Carmelo. Be prepared for a very good defensive plan from Indiana, which means the Knicks shooters must hit open shots and drive into open seams on the floor. Hopefully the Knicks get just enough offense to overcome this strong, well-coached and motivated Pacers team. LETS GO NEW YORK!