The second-seeded Knicks take on the third-seeded Pacers in a series that was highly anticipated. Melo broke out of the first round for just the second time of his career and his first time with the Knicks. The Knicks handled the Celtics in the first three games but the Celtics came back and took two games. The Knicks closed out the series in Boston in Game 6. The Pacers continued their excellent defense in the first round. They topped the Hawks, 4-2.
What New York needs to do to win: They can’t let the Pacers dominate them on the boards like the Pacers did against the Hawks. The Hawks had two very good rebounders in Josh Smith and Al Horford and they still got pounded on the glass. Indiana relies on their size. The Knicks will have to use their speed and skill. Paul George is a solid defender with a lot of length and he will definitely disrupt Melo. Melo needs to be aware on offense and kick it out to a shooter when he doesn’t have a great look. The Knicks need an efficient JR Smith. JR Smith should have a clear advantage over the younger and more immature Lance Stephenson. New York’s defense has been fairly consistent this season. They need to make sure their offense remains consistent. Swing the ball around the perimeter. Too much 1-on-1 for the Knicks will hurt them against this energetic Pacers defense. The Knicks are a great pick-and-roll team. Even an elite defense like the Pacers can get lost in the midst of a well-executed pick-and-roll.
What Indiana needs to do to win: Everyone is expecting Indiana to hold the edge on the boards. They should continue to do so since they have a size advantage over the Knicks. They are also just the more aggressive team by far. Indiana led the NBA in several defensive categories including opponent shooting percentage, opponent points in the paint, opponent fast break points, and others. The Pacers will most definitely slow down the game and try to prevent the Knicks from getting transition points. Indiana is also the best in the league at stopping the three-point shot. Indiana needs to mainly do two things: control the pace of the game and stay out on New York’s three-point shooters. When New York is misfiring from long range, they aren’t that great of a team. Indiana needs to get New York frustrated. New York tends to keep forcing shots when they are pressured heavily. But the Pacers also need production on offense. They need to be patient and use the shot clock. Make the Knicks work on defense.
Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul George: Carmelo Anthony is the better player as of right now. But Paul George cannot be underestimated. George is a coach’s player that cherishes hard work. George gave Melo a lot of trouble in the regular season meetings between these two teams. Melo needs to utilize his strength advantage over George and take him in the post. That is if George guards him. David West may also defend him. Carmelo needs to prove that he is mentally tough enough to win this matchup.
Tyson Chandler vs. Roy Hibbert: This is a great matchup between two guys that are over seven feet tall. Chandler knows how to get the best of Hibbert. Hibbert has been scoring the ball very efficiently lately but I think Chandler will get on his nerves and force much tougher shots. Chandler definitely hold the physical edge and that will probably wear Hibbert down throughout the series.
J.R. Smith vs. Pacers perimeter defense: Lance Stephenson has had an impressive year but J.R. Smith may be too much for him to handle. Everyone knows Smith will get his share of shots. The Pacers are going to need to find an answer for J.R. as he often provides the Knicks with a hot hand.
David West is key on offense: Although Indiana has several players who can score, West may be their best option. West has an excellent offensive game. He has very good range on his jumper and he is effective in the post. Carmelo may be defending West for much of the game. The Pacers could catch Melo sleeping on defense at times. In that case, David West will hurt the Knicks.
Iman Shumpert is important on defense: Shumpert needs to play physical perimeter defense and give the Knicks some sort of defensive identity.
Prediction: This is another really tough one to predict as both teams have their ups and downs. Indiana has proved to be the tougher team but New York is dangerous with their hot outside shooting. This is going to be a tough, grind-it-out series. If the Knicks work hard and limit their mistakes, I think they have a fair chance to win this series.
Knicks Win in Seven Games
Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11