Game #4 Preview: Need Win, Will Travel

Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
7:30 PM EST

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Glossary: Offensive Rating | Defensive Rating | eFG% | Pace

The Pacers need a win. Badly.

There has never been a must-win game in the history of November basketball, so let’s not get carried away, but leaguewide, Indiana is joined by only New Jersey and Golden State in the winless category. More importantly, the team has looked inept on both ends of the floor.

Defensively, few people outside of the confines of Conseco Fieldhouse realistically thought the team was going to be anything better than below-average. Even offensively, it’s not like the team was a juggernaut of efficiency or anything last season — they just took a lot of shots and, thus, made a lot of shots.

But regardless of the 2008-09 team’s middling offensive talent, they certainly put points on the board. Indy’s 105.1 ppg was good for 5th best in the league (albeit at only 108.1 points per 100 possessions, which was 18th best in the NBA). Through three games this season, however, they have dropped that average down to 95.0 ppg (21st in the NBA) and an utterly embarrassing 97.9 points per 100 possessions.

A lot of this is sample size, obviously.

We’re still only talking about three games (against three 2008-09 playoff teams nonetheless) and much of the meager scoring output can be attributed to just plain old bad shooting. Let’s not let Danny Granger off the hook completely here because a true upper echelon basketball player would put the ball on the deck and get to the hoop/foul line when he is struggling, but Danny has missed a ton of threes that he normally makes. At 3/13 and 2/10 from behind the arc the last two games, sure, he’s taking to many threes. But three-point shooting is his primary weapon out there.

Fortunately, the Knicks have been fairly bad themselves so far in the early goings. Aside from Danilo Gallinari (who leads the NBA in three-point makes and takes) shooting an eye-popping 45.2% from three and David Lee doing all the David Lee stuff he does while posting a Shaq-in-his-primesque 62.8% from the field, there’s not a ton for Coach D’Antoni to get excited about.

Still, I haven’t personally seen much of the Knicks yet this year aside from the opening night blow-out they received from the Heat. So for a little more perspective on what the Pacers can expect this evening, I reached out to Mike Kurylo of KnickerBlogger fame. He’s one of the better stat-oriented guys when it comes to discussing the league at large and knows Indy’s New York rivals as well as anyone.

Here’s what he has to say. Per usual, I brought the Qs, Mike dropped the As.

knickerblogger

The Knicks  are 1-3 after getting blown out by Miami and Philly, dropping a close one to Charlotte and, most recently, beating up on Chris Paul and the Hornets. How has the team looked overall and what prompted that 40-point fourth quarter outburst that help you take down New Orleans?

Overall the Knicks have looked poor. In each of the first three games they’ve had 20+ point deficits. One of the changes against New Orleans was to insert Gallinari into the lineup. His hot three-point shooting opened the inside up for David Lee and Chris Duhon to run the pick & roll. In the first three games, teams were able to collapse in the middle, which made the team more one dimensional. I documented this on my blog today, showing how opponents are giving the Knicks the outside shot (namely Wilson Chandler) in lieu of letting them score in the paint.

Much like last year, Coach D’Antoni has his boys chucking threes and putting up points. Why the terrible 28.8% on threes? Is it just missing open looks like the Pacers 27.0%? Or something else? The personnel is just about the same, and Danilo Gallinari, who is leading the NBA in attempts, has hit 45% of his shots from behind the arc?

The team has had some open looks, but haven’t been able to get them to fall. Another problem is a lack of a true shooting guard. Wilson Chandler is not a strong outside shooter. Meanwhile, Larry Hughes and Nate Robinson are more effective as slashers. New York runs an offense that relies on shooting as one main component, and they lack a shooting guard.

What’s up with Nate Robinson? His numbers are gross?

Nate really hasn’t seen a lot of minutes — he’s just a tad above Jared Jeffries in minutes per game. I think he’ll be his normal productive self once he gets back from injury and once he sees some real court time.

How are the rest of the guys looking? Our old friend Al Harrington had 42 the other night but has been pretty bad otherwise. Wilson Chandler is shooting badly as well. Other than David Lee and Danilo is there anyone else who has been playing well that Pacer fans should be worried about tonight?

Al Harrington scores, but doesn’t contribute much else. Danilo Gallinari looks pretty good. Not only is he lighting it up from outside, but he’s shown good court vision and some ability to take his guy off the dribble — although I expect him to be inconsistent at this young age. David is great at scoring in the paint and grabbing rebounds but has been pretty bad defensively. Darko has shown good passing in the half court set, but his defense at the 5 is less than advertised, and he hasn’t gotten a lot of burn. Larry Hughes is playing out of his mind, but you know that has to stop. And be prepared for the Jared Jeffries three-point onslaught!

Looking at the defensive stats, the Knicks are currently 28th in defensive efficiency while the Pacers are 26th. Any predictions on final score? Will there be stop all night?

No prediction, but I don’t expect a lot of defense from either team.

Topics: Chris Duhon, Danilo Gallinari, Danny Granger, Darko Milicic, David Lee, Game #4, Game Previews, Jared Jeffries, KnickerBlogger, Larry Hughes, Mike D'Antoni, Mike Kurylo, Nate Robinson, New York Knicks, Wilson Chandler

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