Ron Glover’s Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview: (3) Indiana Pacers vs. (2) New York Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony and Paul George should provide plenty of scoring in this second-round series.

The New York Knicks were finally able to pull down the curtain on the Boston Celtics season in a tougher than anticipated six game series. The Knicks strength is their perimeter game — which could quickly become a liability if they struggle.

The Indiana Pacers took care of the Atlanta Hawks 4-2. The Pacers use a grind it out brand of basketball — which has been the difference in their season. Paul George continues his breakout season, averaging 17 points in the playoffs. The Knicks know the Pacers are young. talented and defensively sound.

Season series tied 2-2.

Guards:

Raymond Felton was huge in the Boston series. On nights when Carmelo Anthony struggled, Felton was there to pick up the scoring burden.  Felton averaged 17 points and 5 assists in only his third trip to the postseason. Rookie find Pablo Prigioni has blended in well with the shooters on this team. Prigioni shot 42 percent from three-point range in the first round. Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith are other starting options at shooting guard.

George Hill averaged 15 points and 4 assists in the Atlanta series. Hill is still young but as an understudy to Tony Parker in San Antonio brings plenty of experience. Second year guard Lance Stephenson had an eye-opening first round. The Pacers swingman averaged 8 points and 8 boards while handing out 4 assists per game. Stephenson is an integral piece in the Pacers defensive scheme.

Forwards:

Carmelo Anthony captured his first scoring title this season and continued to carry the Knicks in the Celtics series. Anthony hit a snag in the middle games of the series and the Knicks suffered for it. As a result Anthony shot 38 percent for the series — down from the 45 percent clip he shot at during the regular season. The Pacers are going to contest anything beyond the arc, Anthony will need to rely on getting to the basket more than usual. He’s bigger than Paul George and quicker than David West — attributes which should put him at an advantage. Iman Shumpert gets the nod at the other forward spot. Shumpert has shown no ill effects from the torn ACL he suffered last postseason. Shumpert has given the Knicks frontcourt game a huge boost. He averaged 7 rebounds per game in the Boston series.

Paul George stepped up when Danny Granger went down and made the Pacers his own. George — who is in the running for the NBA’s Most Improved Player averaged 17 points per game in the regular season. Turned his game up in the first round against the Hawks, averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game. The durable David West is the oldest player on the Pacers roster (32). West is a survivor of a torn ACL a few seasons back, but remains as rugged and intense as ever. West shot 49 percent from the floor in the first round averaging 33 minutes per game. He will be challenged when guarding Anthony, but will plenty of help on the backside if Carmelo gets by him.

Centers:

The Knicks survived the first round with Tyson Chandler playing roughly 29 minutes. Chandler has battled knee and back injuries throughout the season, but has suited up when he can. Chandler averaged 5 points and 9 boards against Boston. What the Knicks missed was his penchant for deterring and blocking shots. If the Knicks are going to advance they need more defensively from Chandler.

Roy Hibbert isn’t your finesse center, but he’s perfect for this team. Hibbert raised his regular season scoring and rebounding numbers against the Hawks. His number of blocked shots was down, but Hibbert’s presence was enough to be a deterrent. Expect big rebounding numbers from the 7-footer if the Knicks choose to avoid the paint.

Bench:

There is a good chance Amar’e Stoudemire may return for this series if he’s healthy. Stoudemire’s return would give a boost to the Knicks frontcourt scoring as well as rebounding. J.R. Smith’s short stint in coach Mike Woodson’s doghouse may be over since the Knicks were able finish off Boston. Smith is as deadly as any scorer in the league when he’s on. The trade-off is you may get an incident like the Boston series — it’s too late in the season for that kind of foolishness. Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby bring over 30+ years of experience to this series. The question is can they log heavy minutes if a starter encounters and injury or foul trouble.

D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph give the Pacers versatility and cohesiveness as a second unit. Hansbrough is a banger who doesn’t mind mixing it up. Green is a player who can have a similar impact that Smith does for the Knicks if he isn’t accounted for. Augustin is a reliable backup point guard who should be able to use his speed against the larger Felton.

Coaching:

New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson proved he was the right choice for the Knicks job. Woodson has the respect of his players and they have bought in to him as has the New York fanbase. Frank Vogel is one of the best young coaches in the NBA — implementing a defensive-minded approach to a very young, but talented roster. Vogel is coaching in his third consecutive postseason.

Prediction:

The Knicks may have scared themselves straight in the Boston series. The suspension of Smith cost them a game and poor shooting almost did them in. The approach in this series has to be drawing fouls on Indiana’s big’s. The Knicks have to attack the paint in hopes of getting Hibbert and West in foul trouble. The Knicks are taking a serious gamble if they rely solely on their perimeter game. Indiana is counting on defensive pressure and turnovers to fuel their offense. The Pacers can run or make it a half court game — expect a little of both. This series will come down to youth vs. experience. The Knicks have only one player under the age of 27 (Shumpert), while the Pacers have one player on their roster older than 27 (West).

Pacers in six.

 

 

 

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