In what was probably the ugliest series so far in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the New York Knicks came out as winners thanks to Tyson Chandler in the paint, and Carmelo Anthony not ruining things too much for his teams. Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers have shown that they might finally be over their road problems, and have the ability to play a little bit more “easy on the eyes” than they have for most of the season.
The two teams split their season series, but if there’s on thing to learn from the Pacers’ defense all season and especially against the Knicks, is that it work pretty well against them. The Knicks averaged only 91.8 points per 100 possessions in their four games with Indiana, coming especially from Indiana’s ability to limit their outside shooting. The Knicks shot 37.6% during the regular season from beyond the arc, but only 26% against the Pacers, also falling from 10.9 threes per game to 6.8.
A big key in that is Paul George’s amazing defense on Carmelo Anthony, who won’t be shooting in high percentages anyway (only 38.1% from the field on 26.7 shots per game). The key for George is not committing fouls on Anthony, who went to the line 8.2 times per game against Boston, making 89.8% of his shots. Against the Pacers, he averaged only 5.2 free throws per game, as George committed only three fouls on him while defending the top scorer in the NBA. Anthony hit only 19 of his 49 field goals while George was marking him, and did even worse with David West and Sam Young occasionally guarding him.
For the Knicks, it’s going to be about giving Tyson Chandler as many minutes as possible, and hoping Roy Hibbert doesn’t overpower him. Both players were the most important in the series for their teams, giving them the best +/- minutes and a huge advantage in rebounds during their time on the floor. The one who gets the better of the other in the series might be the deciding factor in the series.
Others might be the helping hands around Carmelo Anthony – Raymond Felton was huge against the Celtics (17.2 points per game), but George Hill is an actual point guard, who did quite well in the closing game vs the Hawks, scoring 21 points on the final game. Iman Shumpert and Lance Stephenson offer the same kind of athleticism and help efforts for both teams, as the Pacers hope Paul George doesn’t get carried away in trying to copy Anthony’s shooting, instead focusing on trying to score as much as possible from the inside, although he’s going to get quite a lot of different players to look after him during the series.
Predictions – Two not too dissimilar teams, with Anthony being the difference maker, but not necessarily for the better if Indiana manage to keep him shooting badly and away from the line. The Pacers have possibly gotten over their fear of winning away from home, and if that’s true, they have the right talent and skill set to bet the very one dimensional Knicks.