The Pacers and Knicks are set to tip-off in less than two hours. Here are three keys to the series and my prediction..
Carmelo Anthony’s Decision Making: Anthony has all of the physical tools required to be a superstar. However, his decision making let him down in Round 1. Mike Woodson’s offensive system is predicated on ball movement, finding open shooters, and drives into the paint. Anthony settled for way too many contested, long two-point shots against the Celtics, which kept Boston in the series. Anthony must use his low post game to find easy buckets and dish to open shooters when double teams collapse. The Pacers are a young, impressive defensive team that will bait Anthony into contested two points. Anthony must demonstrate patience and the willingness to give up the ball for the Knicks to advance.
Iman Shumpert vs. Paul George: Shumpert limited Paul Pierce in Round 1. Pierce averaged 19 points per game, but only shot 36 percent from the field. Shumpert frustrated Pierce into taking contested shots. Shumpert will draw an even tougher defensive assignment in Paul George. The 6’8″ George averaged 18.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 5.0 APG against the Atlanta Hawks. George can shoot well from the outside and accumulate points in the paint. George will cover Anthony on defense, so his offensive production may suffer if Anthony can find his rhythm early on. The Pacers offense starts with George’s ability to find open shots and his big men in the low post, so Shumpert must frustrated him from the opening tip.
The 3-Point Battle: The Knicks set an NBA record for the most three-point shots while the Pacers were second in limiting three-point looks. As a team, the Knicks shot 38 percent from three, but struggled against Boston, shooting just 26 percent. During four regular season meetings, the Knicks made just 26 percent of their 3s against the Pacers. The Pacers seem to have the advantage, but after struggling for the last few games, the Knicks three-point shooting is bound to pick up.
Prediction: Knicks in 7
This will be the best second round series. The Pacers are an excellent defensive team while the Knicks can make it rain from three. Offensive rebounding will be key for the Knicks. Grabbing offensive rebounds sets up open three-point looks. Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin must win the battle on the boards against David West and Roy Hibbert. Look for Carmelo to take over in Game 7 to set-up a Eastern Conference Finals showdown against Miami.