Tonight the New York Knicks look to keep their season alive by winning an elimination game in Indiana. It won’t be an easy task, though; in fourgames in Indiana this season, the Knicks have lost by an average of 15 points. However, there’s still reason to believe that the Knicks could force a Game 7.
The status of the Pacers’ starting point guard, George Hill, is still uncertain. He missed Game 5 with a concussion – an injury with strict policy in the NBA – and his absence certainly benefited the Knicks. In the series, Hill is averaging 17.3 points with 34% 3FG and 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Without Hill, the Pacers relied on DJ Augustin to run the point almost full time, but he is neither as efficient as a distributor or as menacing a defender as Hill. If Hill misses Game 6, it surely increases the Knicks’ odds of winning.
Likewise, the Knicks seemed to rediscover their identity a bit last game. “Big” lineup experiments by Mike Woodson were cast aside, and instead, the usual small ball lineups yielded greater results in floor-spreading and pick-and-rolls as Raymond Felton was able to squeeze his way to the basket for some close shots. Whereas the Knicks had previously been the team adjusting to the Pacers’ identity, in Game 5, the Knicks forced Indiana to adjust to their Knicks’ game.
There’s also still the fact that these Pacers are young and haven’t ever closed out a semi-finals series. Last season they had the Miami Heat down 2-1 before the Heat came roaring back to win the series. Though this group is more experienced, and the Knicks aren’t the Heat, there’s still pressure on the Pacers to actually close out another good team, especially facing the prospects of a Game 7 in New York.
However, the Knicks’ play hasn’t inspired too much confidence to win a Game 6 in Indiana. The Pacers’ home crowd is a loud, dedicated one, and this Knicks team is prone to bouts of frustration. When things don’t go their way, that aggravation mounts. The Pacers’ tight defense and rebounding advantage has proven to be thorns in the Knicks’ sides, and New York can’t let it overcome their focus.
Truth be told, this game could go either way. The Knicks definitely face the greater challenge: on the road, looking at elimination, playing against a (thus far) superior team. However, last game showed promising signs. Carmelo Anthony’s offense has gotten a little more efficient, and he was looking to attack the Pacers more. J.R. Smith seems to have re-found his stroke, Raymond Felton’s dribble penetration opened things up, and Chris Copeland added some sizable contributions off the bench.
The game begins at 8:00 ET. The Knicks have 48 minutes to keep their season alive.