Saturday, May 4, 2013
Matchups: Knicks vs. Pacers
By Jared Zwerling
Who will win this second-round Eastern Conference playoff series: the Knicks or the Pacers?
Let’s take a look at the matchups to figure it out:
POINT GUARD:Pablo Prigioni had an advantage in the first round guarding Avery Bradley because the Celtics point guard isn't a great facilitator. George Hill is better at running pick-and-rolls and can pull up. However, if there's any pesky defender you want on Hill, it's Prigioni, who can also shoot if left open. But Hill's offensive versatility will be tough to contain.
SHOOTING GUARD: From Paul Pierce to Lance Stephenson, Raymond Felton will be in another mismatch. Stephenson is taller, stronger and more athletic. But as we saw in the first round, Felton can play bigger defensively. He is also fast enough to explode by Stephenson, who is dangerous leaking out. Both players have emerged for their teams, but Felton's impact has been bigger.
SMALL FORWARD:Iman Shumpert versus Paul George could arguably be the most intriguing matchup. While George has become the do-it-all player for the Pacers, Shumpert has found a groove, and defensively he's one of the best. His steal in Game 6 helped put away the Celtics, but he'll be put to the test against George, who has made Pacers fans almost forget about Danny Granger.
POWER FORWARD:Carmelo Anthony will feel like he's playing the Celtics all over again. Like Brandon Bass, David West is strong, physical and quick. The Pacers will mix things up on D, but West will have his hands full. The key for Anthony is to mix up his offense. The Knicks can't be predictable, which is how the Celtics found success. If Game 6 is any indication, Melo and his teammates are ready.
CENTER: After a strong Game 6, Tyson Chandler said it was "absolutely the best I've felt." That's not what Roy Hibbert wants to hear about Chandler, who had been recovering from the flu and a bulging disk in his neck. In past matchups, Chandler, who is more mobile, has outplayed the slower-footed Hibbert. Hibbert will get a ton of touches in the post, but Chandler should be prepared having just guarded Kevin Garnett in the first round.
COACH: Before the final Knicks-Pacers matchup of the regular season, Frank Vogel credited Mike Woodson for structuring his two point-guard system with Anthony at the 4. Vogel said the foundation makes it challenging for teams to defend their ball movement and 3-point looks. If Woodson is as clever as Vogel says he is, the Knicks will benefit in the semifinals. Team basketball will be the key, as it was in Game 6 against the Celtics. That will be the difference in this defensive series.
PREDICTION: The series will likely be defensive, and the Knicks will have the benefit of closing the series at home with Anthony and Smith, more veteran playmakers and a hungry fan base on their side. The Pacers' struggles to score will hurt them in the end.