- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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How crucial is Game 3 of the Knicks-Pacers series?
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 446 best-of-7 postseason series in NBA history. Of the 192 times a series has been tied 1-1, the Game 3 winner has gone on to win the series 76.6 percent (147-45) of the time.
So Game 3 figures to be a pivotal one. Here are a few things to keep an eye on. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.:
THE RETURN OF AMAR'E: Amar'e Stoudemire is expected to take the floor on Saturday for the first time in more than two months. So what does that mean for the Knicks?
Stoudemire is not going to play major minutes in Game 3, unless it's necessitated by injury. So he shouldn't have a major impact on the game one way or the other. Mike Woodson has said that Stoudemire will be limited to 10-15 minutes in Game 3.
One thing worth watching, as always, is how the Knicks do when he and Carmelo Anthony share the floor.
The Knicks averaged 97.6 points per 48 minutes and shot 44.7 percent from the field when they were on the court at the same time. When Anthony was on the court without Stoudemire, New York averaged 102.7 points per 48 minutes and shot over 45 percent from the field.
Since Game 4 of the Knicks-Celtics series, Smith is shooting just 26 percent from the floor. He hit 43 percent of his shots in the three playoff games preceding the suspension.
Smith seems to be struggling in isolation sets. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Smith shot 50 percent from the field in isolation plays in the first three games this postseason. Since then, though, he’s shooting 17.6 percent from the field in such plays.
PAINT POINTS ARE KEY: One of the biggest differences between Games 1 and 2 was the Knicks' performance in the paint.
New York was out rebounded by 14 and outscored by 14 in paint points in Game 1. In Game 2, they out rebounded the Pacers by two and outscored them in the paint, 52-40.
This seems to be a key stat. When Indiana outscores its opponents in the paint, it is 5-1. When they Pacers are outscored in the paint, they are 0-2.
It's worth noting, though, that Indiana has been a different team at home in the playoffs.
In their three home playoff games against Atlanta (all wins), the Pacers outscored the Hawks by an average of 18.3 points. That's the highest home scoring differential in the NBA.
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