Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Knicks
Friday, March 16 at New York, 7:30 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (25-16) vs. Knicks (19-24)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: With Leandro Barbosa on the way after Thursday's trade with Toronto, the Indiana rotation got a little deeper, not to mention more explosive -- particularly the second unit. The Pacers' bench has been on a roll lately, racking up 91 points, 38 rebounds and 26 assists in the last two games while shooting 56.5 percent from the field. Much of the damage has been done by George Hill, who has averaged 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in five appearances since the All-Star break. The versatile guard may be playing his way into the starting lineup. Tyler Hansbrough also has come to life, averaging 13.7 points on 53.8 percent shooting in the last three, and Lou Amundson has been a revelation, making 13 of 14 shots while amassing 27 points and 11 rebounds in the last two.
They've been streaky recently, putting together strings of five losses, six wins and four losses and now have won two in a row with back-to-back home victories over the Blazers and 76ers, the latter of which snapped a streak of eight losses against opponents with winning records. The team has shown well in its key indicator stats in the last two games, up 87-65 on the boards, 25-11 on second-chance points and 39-17 on turnover points. They haven't played the Knicks yet this season but get them twice in a row with a rematch Saturday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Barbosa isn't expected to play this weekend but could be in uniform Tuesday against the Clippers.
SCOUTING THE KNICKS: It hasn't been a particularly good season in New York but it has been memorable. The stunning emergence of Jeremy Lin captured the world's attention for a few weeks as the team put together a seven-game win streak but as reality settled in and the team dropped nine of 12, news of a darker sort took over as Coach Mike D'Antoni stepped down and was replaced by Indianapolis' Mike Woodson. In their first game under the former Broad Ripple High and Indiana University star they routed Portland 121-79 to snap a six-game losing streak.
Woodson plans to slow the tempo, which was frenetic under D'Antoni, and find ways to play to the strengths of star scorers Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire as the Knicks try to make a playoff push. Lin has averaged 19.7 points, 8.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.35 steals in the last 20 games but also has amassed 100 turnovers in that span. A quieter emergence has been that of reserve Steve Novak, who ranks third in the NBA in 3-point percentage (.487) and has made 35 in the last 10 games. The Knicks, however, have not made good use of the arc, averaging 22.3 attempts per game but shooting just 31.9 percent.
KEY MATCHUP: New York's star-power has been a challenge for the Pacers. Stoudemire averaged 25 points and eight rebounds against them last season, while Anthony averaged 29.3 points and six rebounds.
QUOTE MARKS: "I don't think we have really that much to prove. People have been saying that we can't beat good teams and things like that but if you look at it we've beaten good teams already. We've taken some bruises against a couple of big teams, unfortunately." - George Hill
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (back) is out. For the Knicks, Toney Douglas (personal) and Bill Walker (sore elbow) are out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 7. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Austin Croshere, with Kevin Lee hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.