Danny Granger described these games with the Knicks as “winnable” ones. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire took exception to the perceived slight, and the Knicks put a serious hurting on the Pacers in game one of the home-and-home series. As the two teams prepare to do it again tonight in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, it may be New York who is eying this as a “winnable” road game
Here are a few things to watch on Saturday:
WILL HISTORY REPEAT?: While it’s relatively uncommon for teams in the NBA to play consecutive games against the same opponent during the regular season, this is the second March in a row that it has happened for the Knicks and Pacers.
Last season, Indiana swept the two games, winning easily in the Garden on a Sunday, before eking out a narrow win in a hotly contested battle in Indy on Tuesday. This time around, it will be up to the Pacers to give a much better effort, and for the Knicks to try to preserve the sweep.
The coaches were largely non-committal. When asked about the challenge of playing the same team back-to-back, Knicks coach Mike Woodson would only say that “it will be fun.” Pacers coach Frank Vogel, for his part, was glad to be playing again so quickly, but stopped well short of saying it was of any advantage.
DEFENSE FROM THE OPENING TIP: The Knicks jumped on the Pacers early in Friday’s game, allowing only 14 first quarter points while recording a stunning 59.5 defensive efficiency. It set the tone for a game that was decided well before halftime. It is impossible to overstate how important establishing themselves as the aggressor is to the way the Knicks wants to play defense. Can they begin to make it a habit?
WHO WAS THE ALL-STAR AGAIN?: When Indiana’s Roy Hibbert was named as a reserve to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, one of the players overlooked was Knicks center Tyson Chandler. Last night, that oversight was glaring. Chandler posted 16 points and seven rebounds while anchoring the defense that absolutely throttled the Pacers. Hibbert missed eight of his 10 shots on his way to four points.
It was a continuation of a trend post-All Star break. Chandler has scored 11 points per game on an ultra-efficient 67 percent shooting, while pulling down 11 boards. Hibbert’s numbers have dropped to 8 points and 7 rebounds on 37 percent shooting.
If Chandler can dominate this match up again, then the Knicks will likely leave Bankers Life Fieldhouse with another win.