Pacers could catch a break during the first round in the 'Knick' of time

Indiana may prefer a banged-up New York team in the opening round of the postseason.
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks / Steven Ryan/GettyImages

In less than 48 hours, the regular season will wrap as the final playoff seeding unfolds. The possibility of the Pacers starting the first round of the postseason at Madison Square is likely.

While Indiana won the season series against New York, 2-1, the Knicks will finish the season with a better record than the Pacers. Some big questions come up when looking at this potential matchup.

Who's the better coach: Rick Carlisle or Tom Thibodeau?

Carlisle spent 11 seasons as an assistant (three with Indiana) before getting promoted to his first major job at the helm. He had two years with Detroit and four more with Indiana before heading to Dallas where he led the Mavericks to a title in 2011.

While Thibodeau has a record of 31-41 in 72 playoff games as a head coach, Carlisle has almost twice as many playoff games under his belt, going 63-70 in those contests. Thibodeau has never reached the NBA finals as a head coach, however, he was an assistant for the Boston Celtics during their appearance in the 2009-2010 season.

Despite both their resumes being very impressive, the experience edge tips in favor of Carlisle and his Pacers,

Is Tyrese Haliburton ready to do big things as a Pacers player at MSG like Reggie Miller?

In the 1994-1995 postseason, Reggie Miller stunned the NBA with eight points in just under nine seconds to steal Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers hope to have that level of star power in their point guard, Haliburton.

He leads the charge for the league's leading offense at over 120 points per game. Midseason acquisition Pascal Siakam has made this team a three-headed monster with Myles Turner also being a major contributor on both sides of the floor.

Haliburton has shined throughout the season including all three rounds of the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament. In all three rounds combined, he recorded 73 points, 18 rebounds, and twice as many assists (39).

Having faced the Knicks three times this year, and winning twice, Haliburton has gone off for a combined 59 points and 40 assists. He is averaging almost a 20-point double-double against them each contest against New York.

Can the Pacers Slow Down Jalen Brunson?

While Indiana has received a significant amount of attention and praise for their offense, their defense has often led to much skepticism and concern. As clutch as Haliburton has been for the Pacers, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson has been magnificent against the In-Season Tournament Semifinalists.

In the three-sample size, Brunson has torched the Pacers for a total of 107 points, about 35 per game. Fellow starter Donte DiVincenzo has also lit up the scoreboard against Indiana with a combined 72 points in as many games, too.

The big theme in the majority of Indiana's losses has been their inability to stop opposing stars or tandems from dominating them. For instance, Brunson and the Bulls' DeMar DeRozan as well as Los Angeles Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

It will take a total team effort for the Pacers to shut down Brunson and company. The Pacers have the second-worst defense in terms of points per game in the Eastern Conference while the Knicks have the best.

No need for Indiana to handle Randle

With Knicks star Julian Randle ruled out for the rest of the season, the Pacers may catch a break there. Mitchell Robinson has missed almost four months of play this year and Isaiah Harenstein is also not healthy.

Pacers big men Siakam and Myles Turner could have a big series. He is averaging 18.6 points and seven rebounds a game against the Knicks this season.


In his lone contest against New York, Siakam tallied 19 points and six rebounds. The Pacers have a strong chance to win if they were to face off against the Knicks in the first round.
Indiana 4, New York 2.