Indiana Pacers: Preseason debut against the Knicks will be an ideal test

Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, New York Knicks - Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, New York Knicks - Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA is finally back. After a few months of waiting that seemed longer than it actually was, the Indiana Pacers will tussle it out in preseason action against the New York Knicks to kick off their 2021-22 NBA campaign.

Fresh off a disappointing showing last season, the Pacers will have yet another clean slate this time, and their preseason debut against the Knicks, one of the association’s biggest surprise last season after finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, will be an ideal test as the Blue and Gold treads waters to reclaim relevancy.

While Indiana will not banner a healthy lineup to trot out against New York, with starters TJ Warren and Caris LeVert already on the shelf, the team should be amped up to start things off on a positive note, especially against a playoff team which further improved in the offseason.

Tough-as-nail Knicks present an ideal season welcome for the Indiana Pacers

After adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to last season’s successful group led by Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, expectations for the Knicks are quite lofty this time around. With reigning Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau at the helm, New York should remain as one of the league’s toughest defensive teams while their new additions ensure that they are more than just a gritty club.

Last season, the Knicks finished third in the league in defensive rating, though their offensive rating was a measly 23rd. While their defensive-minded approach was the catalyst behind their rise, their struggles scoring the ball were exploited as they fell to the Hawks in the 2021 playoffs. However, adding an All-Star guard in Walker and a reliable scorer in Fournier through free agency makes them even more formidable.

The Indiana Pacers, now manned by Rick Carlisle on the sidelines, should be able to measure where they stand identity and scheme-wise at this point. New York’s defensive prowess will be a great test for the team’s improved offense last season, though it is still hounded by question marks surrounding their outdated two-big configuration and how it can fare better under the veteran tactician.

The defense of the Blue and Gold should be equally tested too. After declining as a defensive unit last season, the Knicks’ much-improved scoring attack captained by Randle, Walker, Barrett, Fournier and even Derrick Rose should easily wreak havoc on the team sans an improvement on that department. With the coaching staff’s emphasis on defense in training camp, look for the Pacers to wage a better fight on defense, anchored by a healthier Myles Turner in the middle.

It would also be interesting to see how coach Carlisle shuffles his lineup and tweaks the starting five in the absence of some key players. While the preseason is experimental, how the coaching staff handles the rotation should given fans a glimpse on the team’s hierarchy and who remains on the squad going into the regular season.

Schedule: Indiana Pacers @ New York Knicks, Tues 5 Oct, 7:30 PM ET, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

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