Knicks (27-26, won last 1) @ Pacers (31-21, won last 1)
* 97.08 points per game (13th in the NBA) vs. 94.36 points allowed per game (13th)
* 43.7% FG (23rd) vs. 44.0% FG allowed (10th)
* 42.57 rpg (12th) vs. 41.62 rebounds allowed (15th)
* 19.59 apg (23rd) vs. 16.62 TO pg (30th)
* 96.39 ppg (16th) vs. 93.79 points allowed (9th)
* 43.7% FG (22nd) vs. 43.4% FG allowed (8th)
* 43.33 rppg (9th) vs. 42.02 rebounds allowed (18th)
* 18.33 appg (30th) vs. 14.39 TO pg (13th)
PG-Baron Davis vs. Darren Collison
SG-Iman Shumpert vs. Paul George
SF-Landry Fields vs. Danny Granger
PF-Carmelo Anthony vs. David West
C-Tyson Chandler vs. Roy Hibbert
New York-Steve Novak, Toney Douglas, J.R. Smith
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, Leandro Barbosa, George Hill, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson
Injuries of note
New York-Jeremy Lin (knee, out), Amar’e Stoudemire (back, out), Jared Jeffries (knee, out)
Maybe it will take three tries for the Pacers to finally handle the Knicks, who beat Indiana in back-to-back games last month. But New York has been decimated by injury since then, losing unlikely star point guard Jeremy Lin for the regular season to a torn meniscus, starting power forward Amar’e Stoudemire to a bulging disk in his back, and key reserve forward Jared Jeffries to a knee injury. Somehow the Knicks have persevered, stringing together 6 wins over the 8 games played since beating the Pacers twice, with many of them impressive (vs. PHI, vs. ORL and vs. MIL). New York’s most recent win was a beatdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. The Cavs were without star point guard Kyrie Irving. New York heads to Indianapolis tonight well-rested and motivated to continue to fight for playoff positioning despite the mounting injuries.
On paper the Knicks are the type of team Indina usually dominates. They don’t take care of the ball particularly well, and are forced to start the undersized trio of Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields, with Carmelo Anthony playing out of position at power forward. But Anthony is quicker and more deadly with the ball in his hands than most power forwards, which helps him negate the size disparity he normally gives up to them, and presenting defenders like David West with a matchup nightmare. Meanwhile Shumpert, who seemed lost at point guard earlier in the year, has thrived off the ball, where he’s clearly more comfortable. He has some of the quickest hands in the league, and is already an elite-level perimeter defender, averaging 2.5 steals per game over his four recent starts. He’s the type of opposing wing that can give Paul George fits.
We know the Pacers should out-muscle the Knicks, and use their superior depth to outlast them, but in both losses earlier in the year, Indiana succumbed to brutal shooting skids, leaving points on the floor for long stretches, and allowing New York to run up leads in vicious spurts. That can’t happen tonight if Indiana wants to finally leave Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a win vs. their one-time rivals.
Prediction: Pacers 99, Knicks 93
The Pacers haven’t had as much rest as the Knicks, but they’ve had plenty of time to figure out how to beat them, and should be plenty motivated given how poorly they plaid in the back-to-back losses last month. Indiana split two tough road games in Texas, and looked poised and aggressive vs. the Rockets in overtime, despite not running up the score like they should have. The Knicks present some matchup problems, but if the Pacers play as tough as they did vs. Houston, they should be fine. If they slump through whole quarters at a time, as they’ve been known to at times this season, it won’t be so doable.
Shumpert is the key here. By keeping the ball out of his hands on offense, the Knicks have limited his turnovers, and he’s been left to contribute in the categories in which he excels (points, steals, rebounds for his position and assists). His shooting has been erratic at best all year, but he’s improved as a starter recently. You should start him for the steals, if for no other reason. Steve Novak is obviously much better with Lin in the lineup, but he’s still prone to torrid three point shooting streaks, even if he hasn’t shown up lately. If you’re desperate for threes in a deep league, he deserves consideration. Don’t fall into the Baron Davis trap; he hasn’t been very good even as a starter playing for Lin, and you don’t want your fantasy playoff hopes to rest on his doughy shoulders.
Aside from a mishap vs. New Jersey, Danny Granger has exceeded expectations offensively for the last couple weeks, and should continue tonight if matched up with Landry Fields for long stretches. His rebounding numbers have also skyrocketed, and while he won’t hit 6 threes every night (as he did vs. Houston), he’s a threat for a handful on any given occasion. Paul George remains the most inconsistent must-start in fantasy because of his hustle numbers (he’s ranked 20th in Yahoo! standard leagues, which I bet you were unaware of).
Hibbert has a tough matchup with Tyson Chandler, but the Knicks don’t have much big depth after him, so if Roy gets matched up with literally anyone else, he could be subject for some easy buckets and boards.
Lucas Klipsch believes in justice. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317