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The Eastern Conference semifinal series between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers moves to the Hoosier State Saturday with the series tied one game apiece. The NBA odds have the Pacers listed as a 4-point home favorite with the over/under set at 184.

After being upset in Game One of the series, the Knicks responded in a big way Tuesday by blowing out the Pacers, 105-79, as a 5.5-point favorite. Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer in the regular season, exploded for a game-high 32 points while adding nine rebounds to pace the Knicks. The Pacers were led by Paul George’s 20 points, but a rash of second-half turnovers that led to a 36-4 Knicks’ run ultimately proved fatal for the Pacers.

There have been a couple of newsworthy events out of Knicks camp since the Game Two victory. Forward Amare Stoudemire, who has missed more than two months with a knee injury, will be in uniform and is scheduled to play between 10 to 15 minutes, head coach Mike Woodson said. Additionally, Woodson also let it be known in the aftermath of Game Two that the Knicks second-leading scorer—J.R. Smith—could see his playing time reduced if does not remedy his current shooting slump (just 15-for-57  from the field in his last four games).

As for Indiana, the return home could be just what the doctored order. The Pacers have gone an excellent 33-11at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Head coach Frank Vogel has been urging his team to be more physical with the Knicks, a style of play the Pacers had success with in the regular season.

This series has the looks of being a long, drawn-out affair as not much seems to separate these two teams. With that said, Game Three is a “swing” game in any seven-game series and whoever comes out on top in this one will be squarely in the driver’s seat.

The New York Knicks are in a heck of a lot of trouble, and it didn’t take long to find themselves there. They have now lost three of their last four games in the playoffs, and that includes dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers. Now, the two are set to renew ties for Game 2 at Madison Square Garden in what could ultimately be a pivotal game in this series.

The key for the Knicks is going to be getting Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith going. These two men have been horrid shooters from the field over the course of these playoffs, shooting 37.8 and 36.4 percent respectively. They’re getting their points, as they are averaging 44.4 points per game between them this year, but they also taking away the flow of Head Coach Mike Woodson’s offense.

For the Pacers, the key to winning in NBA betting action is going to be playing stout defense on these two men once again. The Indiana defense was bothered by the Atlanta Hawks at times in the opening round of the playoffs, but for the most part, the team has done the job. The Pacers have allowed just an average of 90.1 points per game here in the second season, and that is right around the 90.7 points per game that they allowed in the regular season. Indiana was ranked first in the Eastern Conference in scoring defense, shooting defense (42.0%), and three-point shooting defense (32.7%) this season.

Not surprisingly, the ‘total’ in NBA betting action in Game 2 of this series is just 183, as the oddsmakers are expecting another one of these low scoring defensive games. The Knicks scored just 19 points in both the second and third quarters of Game 1.

The linesmakers have installed New York as a six-point favorite to level this series.

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.

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The 2013 NBA playoffs start this weekend, and for the first time in almost 20 years, the New York Knicks are going into them as the Atlantic Division champs. It’s not just New York that is going to be on display at home in the first two games of the postseason though, as the Brooklyn Nets are going to be hosting their first playoff games at the Barclays Center as well this year.

Just because Brooklyn and New York are going to have home court advantage in the first round of the postseason doesn’t mean that they are anywhere near locks to get into the second round, though. NBA betting fans know that both teams have very tough matchups. The Knicks have to contend with the Boston Celtics, while the Nets draw the Chicago Bulls. Both enemies play stout defensive basketball, and both have enough talent to not just win their respective first round series, but subsequent series down the road as well.

The Knicks did play quite well this year against the Celtics, but there is definitely some cause for concern. The 3-1 record both SU and ATS was impressive for New York, but the one win that the boys from Beantown had happened at Madison Square Garden earlier in the campaign. If the C’s can figure out how to steal one of these first two games at MSG to start this series, it could be a long series that doesn’t go the way that New York wants it to.

The Nets meanwhile, were nowhere near as fortunate against Chicago. The Bulls won two of the three meetings this season and covered all three games. Brooklyn didn’t score more than 93 points in any of the three games this year against the boys from the Windy City, a clear indication that this is going to be a slugfest of a series.

The Charlotte Bobcats are set to finish out the 2013 campaign with the worst record in the NBA for the second straight year. Their fate will be sealed on Monday night if they get beaten in their second to last game of the season against the New York Knicks.

It’s any guess as to how hard New York is really going to play in this game. The team locked up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference over the weekend, and there is literally nothing left to play for in these last two regular season games. We certainly know that Head Coach Mike Goodson is going to play it safe with F Carmelo Anthony, who deserves the rest that he is expected to get. Others that will probably be on the shelf in this one include C Marcus Camby (foot), F Kenyon Martin (ankle), and C Tyson Chandler (neck). F Amare Stoudemire remains out for the rest of the month, and the earliest he could be back is the second round of the playoffs.

Charlotte has been a disaster all season long once again, and the team is a stunningly bad 12-56 SU and 23-44-1 ATS over the course of its last 68 games. The Bobcats have virtually no talent on their team, and they clearly missed with their lottery selection last year of F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG is just sixth on the team in scoring at 9.0 points per game, and he hasn’t played tremendous defensive ball either.

The Knicks are favored by eight-points on the NBA odds to open, and in spite of the fact that virtually none of the regulars are expected to play, it’s tough to argue. New York has won three of the last four games in this series by at least nine points, and the last four victories over the Bobcats have come by an average of 16.0 points per game.

Carmelo Anthony is expected to return tonight against the Orlando Magic. “I feel good as of right now, so I’ll be ready to play tonight,” says Anthony. Anthony has missed six of the Knicks’ last eight games, and presence has been sorely missed; they have lost five of their last seven.

This is not to say that other injuries haven’t been holding the Knicks back as well. Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are both out as well, which has not done the Knicks any good. The hope is that Anthony will be able to provide the spark this team has been missing of late.

In the two most recent games Anthony played in, it is thought that he probably came back from being injured a bit too early. He shot 7-27 in those two games, and later admitted that he struggled playing below 100%. That does not seem to be the case this time around. When asked about his confidence in his knee, Carmelo responded by saying “I’m not thinking about my knee. I’m not thinking about anything. I feel good. Now I’m just playing ball at this point.”

The Knicks are not in danger of missing the playoffs by any stretch of the imagination, but minimizing injuries is an important part of making a playoff run. It is encouraging to see ‘Melo displaying such confidence in his knee after a couple scary outings. Let’s hope that everyone else is in tip-top shape come playoff time.

A good test for the Knicks comes on April 14th when they play the Pacers, who for the time being have edged into the second spot in the East. Tickets to the game start at $171 on SeatCrunch and reach prices in the realm of $4,020.

Pardon the pun, but coming into their game with the Utah Jazz, the New York Knicks are clearly singing the blues. This is a road trip that New York just cannot wait to end. These first four games have all ended in disastrous defeats, each coming by at least 13 points. Now, New York finds itself as an 11 ½-point underdog on the NBA odds to a Utah team that is just scrapping and clawing to try to stay in the playoff picture in the Western Conference.

New York has the biggest injury woes in the league at the moment. The team already doesn’t have F Amare Stoudemire for at least the next 4-6 weeks, and F Carmelo Anthony has been seeing doctors all week to work on his knee. Now, C Tyson Chandler is out with a knee injury as well, and the team has to play the second game of a back to back just 30 hours or so after getting pasted by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Utah isn’t exactly playing the best ball in the world either, but this is a game that it has to have. The Jazz are just 2-5 in their last seven games, and one of those wins came against the lowly Detroit Pistons.

There is a score here to settle as well for Utah. The team was at Madison Square Garden just a week and a half ago before all of the injures started to kick in, and the Jazz were pummeled 113-84 as 5 ½-point underdogs.

The Knicks have covered 17 of the last 21 games in this series and a remarkable 10 in a row, but Utah hasn’t lost a game played here at Energy Solutions Arena in this series from an SU perspective since 2005.

The concern is growing in New York City, where an injury-ravaged Knicks team has been treading water since a fast start to the season. Following a 117-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday—the Knicks third in four games—New York travels to take on the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night.

 

The Knicks (38-23) have slid to third-place in the Eastern Conference behind the No.2 Indiana Pacers by going 21-19 since a fast 17-5 start to the season. Coach Mike Woodson has had to deal with a rash of injuries which of late has included his two biggest stars in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.

Anthony, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, returned from a knee injury to play against the Nuggets, but was forced to leave in the third quarter after scoring only nine points. He is slated to return to New York for further tests on the knee.

 

In addition to Anthony’s issues, the Knicks also learned last week that Stoudemire’s knee injury will keep him sidelined until at least early May. The next month, beginning with tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers, will be crucial for the Knicks.

 

Portland (29-34) has lost its last two games and is on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff race. The Trail Blazers are also a disappointing 28-32-3 against the spread this season. They are led by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who leads the team in scoring at 20.8 points a game, and guard Damian Lillard, who is averaging 19 points and 6.4 points a game to be a leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year.

 

As for a prediction, the injury issues the Knicks are dealing with mean there had been no line released as of Thursday morning. Both of these teams have issues that make them a little suspect to use in your NBA picks moving forward

The Knicks were wagering quicksand for NBA handicappers in the month of February and that trend continued over the weekend with a home loss to the Miami Heat. Now, the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed faces a busy week with five games in the next seven days that will entail making multiple road trips.

 

New York was 0-7-1 against the spread in its last eight games before finally covering the number last Friday in a 96-88 win on the road against the Washington Wizards. Facing the Easter Conference-leading Heat on Sunday, the Knick surged to a 14-point lead at the half, but were ultimately undone by the continued exploits of Lebron James, who scored 29 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the 99-93 win.

 

The loss snapped a three-game straight-up winning streak for the Knicks and put them a half-game back of the Indiana Pacers for the No. 2 seed.

 

The Knicks play three of their next five games on the road, which begins with a tilt at the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday and is followed by a trip to take on the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. They figure to be favored in both of those games, but then get three straight against teams with playoff aspirations (vs. Oklahoma City Thursday, vs. Utah Saturday, at Golden State Monday).

 

Knicks’ forward Carmelo Anthony became the NBA’s leading scorer last week when moving past Kevin Durant by upping his season-average to 28.6 points. He poured in 35 points in the win against the Warriors and added 30 against the Heat Sunday. 

 

The Knicks are certainly a team with some flaws, but they’re proving to be a competitive bunch that may be able to turn around that recent slump versus the line. It was good to see Jason Kidd finally produce after a prolonged shooting slump versus the Heat, so consider the Knicks “live” as you formulate this week’s NBA predictions

The Minnesota Timberwolves Luke Ridnour is on the trading block ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline and speculation is the New York Knicks are the leading contender to land the point guard.

Ridnour is part of a crowded Timberwolves’ backcourt that also features Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea. Team officials would like to move either Ridnour or Barea, ideally as part of a larger package that would include future first-round draft picks in exchange for an established top-level NBA talent. Other Timberwolves are also on the trading block, according to reports.

Ridnour is putting together a solid campaign—he is averaging 31 minutes a game and 13.7 points with three rebounds—but interest has reportedly been limited to the Knicks. The Timberwolves are hoping to make a splash prior to the trade deadline largely as an effort to appease its top star, Kevin Love.

Minnesota has struggled again this season and the lack of winning is apparently wearing thin on Love. He has already voiced his displeasure with the situation in Minnesota with owner Glen Taylor and apparently Taylor has gotten the message. It remains unclear who the Timberwolves are targeting or who they could possibly get in return from the Knicks, but they are actively seeking a trade partner. In fact, Ridnour told the local media that he has already “mentally prepared” to be traded. 

For those looking at it from an NBA betting angle, a big trade would certainly shake things up for a Timberwolves team that is 21-27-2 against the spread this season. It’s certainly obvious Minnesota is lacking in talent and needs to upgrade its roster. A dynamic wing player with the ability to get to the basket and jump the T’Wolves anemic offense, which ranks 21st in the NBA in scoring, would be a good launching point.