Mar. 14, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks interim head coach Mike Woodson and small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) on the sidelines during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 121-79. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks

Indiana (25-16, won last two) @ Orlando (19-24, won last one)

Key Stats

New York

* 97.26 points per game (11th in the NBA) vs. 99.02 points allowed per game (25th)

* 43.8% FG (19th) vs. 44.5% FG allowed (14th)

* 41.79 rpg (18th) vs. 42.49 rebounds allowed (19th)

*20.14 apg (21st) vs. 15.22 TO pg (21st)

Indiana

* 95.42 ppg (16th) vs. 92.15 points allowed (4th)

* 43.2% FG (25th) vs. 42.9% FG allowed (8th)

* 43.63 rppg (4th) vs. 42.54 rebounds allowed (20th)

* 18.1 appg (29th) vs. 14.2 TO pg (6th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Darren Collison vs. Jeremy Lin

SG-Paul George vs. Landry Fields

SF-Danny Granger vs. Carmelo Anthony

PF-David West vs. Amar’e Stoudemire

C-Roy Hibbert vs. Tyson Chandler

Key Reserves

New York-Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Baron Davis, Jared Jeffries

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, George Hill

Injuries of note

New York-None

Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, out)

Breakdown:

The Pacers vs. Knicks rivalry has lost a bit of its luster since the Reggie vs. John Starks 1990s. Still, Danny Granger killed the Knicks with a buzzer beater last year at (then-named) Conseco Fieldhouse, and then in April New York turned around with some late-game heroics by Carmelo Anthony to beat the Pacers by one. In that game, the last time these two teams met, Anthony hit the go-ahead jumper with under five-seconds left, and blocked a potential Granger game-winner. Since then the Pacers have hired a permanent coach (Frank Vogel was still wearing the “interim” tag last spring) while the Knicks have fired one. Indiana-born Mike Woodson took over for Mike D’Antoni for Wednesday’s home matchup with Portland, and his team promptly swatted down the Blazers 121-79, making quite a statement in the process. Woodson will attempt to run his offense through his star players, focusing less on Jeremy Lin at the point of attack. While Lin’s stats suffered, the studs shined. Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony combined for 33 points on 14-22 shooting in just 49 combined minutes, and the Knicks’ bench, with plenty of run in the blowout, combined for a freakish 72 points. New York is well-rested, and weren’t even challenged on Wednesday, but they’ll need all the energy they can muster against the Pacers, who are coming off of two convincing wins over solid opponents.

On paper Indiana couldn’t ask for a tastier matchup. The Knicks are soft on defense and careless with the basketball, which is a dream for a defensively-focused team like the Pacers. However, Anthony, Stoudemire and the Knicks’ bench scorers will put pressure on Indiana, defensively. While the Pacers have played solid defense on the year, they’ve let up significantly recently, allowing opponents to shoot 45% over the last five games, still good, but not as good as their season standard of 43% allowed.

It’s hard to tell how New York will adjust to Woodson in the long-term, but during the team’s recent 6-game losing streak it was terrible. The Knicks were outscored, in those six losses, by an average of over 8 points per game. While the opposition was tough (all playoff teams), New York showed the same tendency to shrink in the face of tough competition that has plagued Indiana recently. So this matchup tonight could be pivotal for both teams.

Prediction: Pacers 102, Knicks 91
Jeremy Lin will struggle adjusting to the new offense, so he’s not as likely to kill the Pacers as most other teams’ point guards. While Anthony will get his, and the Knicks bench is deeper than it’s been in years, New York is simply not good enough defensively to keep up with Indiana if the Pacers get hot, like they did against Philadelphia and Portland. Here’s hoping this happens again.

Fantasy Outlook:

Lin is still a consistent source of steals, but judging by his play Wednesday, it’s more than turnovers you have to put up with now, it’s his lack of scoring and poor shooting. You may want to tentatively bench Lin, even against an Indiana team that has struggled against opposing point guards.

As for the Pacers, it’s time to start paying attention to George Hill. The buzz around Indianapolis is that he’ll take Darren Collison’s starting job, now that the Pacers have acquired Leandro Barbosa to provide bench scoring, so stay tuned. Even as a 6th man, Hill has been useful lately, averaging 14 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 2 three pointers made on over 60% shooting over the last two games.

Is Lucas Klipsch the only one who finds it troubling that Taco Bell has to advertise that they use “100% real beef?” Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

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