May 21, 2024

Direction of Knicks-Pacers series, injuries, adjustments needed, X-factors and more

This sequence may go both means.

The Indiana Pacers may capitalize on their momentum after pulling off two straight dwelling wins. The New York Knicks overcome a short-handed roster to squeeze out a pair more victories.

The Knicks and Pacers are tied at two video games apiece heading right into a pivotal Game 5 at 8 p.m. (ET) Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Knicks author Fred Katz and Milwaukee Bucks author Eric Nehm, who’s overlaying the Pacers throughout the postseason, talk about the X-factors, how expectations have modified and more.

Here are 5 urgent questions and their 5 urgent solutions:

How has your perspective on this sequence modified after 4 video games?

Katz: Let’s get to the apparent one: the accidents.

The Knicks have misplaced OG Anunoby, probably for the sequence. Mitchell Robinson reaggravated his left ankle harm in Game 1 and is now done for the postseason. And most significantly for the Knicks, Jalen Brunson might insist he’s “fine,” however he doesn’t look it. Brunson has appeared a step slower since hurting his proper foot in Game 2, unable to create area in opposition to the Pacers’ persistent on-ball defenders, particularly Aaron Nesmith.

Indiana hasn’t simply been more healthy. The Pacers have performed by way of its scares with more success. Tyrese Haliburton is coping with a litany of illnesses, too: a sprained ankle, again spasms and a sacral contusion. Yet, throughout the Game 3 and 4 wins, he was the engine that motored the Pacers offense.

Nehm: Aside from the accidents, the largest shock to me on this sequence is how nicely the Pacers’ bench unit has held up.

With Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau enjoying his starters heavy minutes, I questioned if Pacers coach Rick Carlisle would lean right into a 9 or 10-man rotation like he did throughout the common season. T.J. McConnell has averaged 12.3 factors and 6.5 assists in 21.2 minutes per recreation. Obi Toppin has knocked down six of his 11 3-point makes an attempt and held up defensively. Rookie Ben Sheppard has knocked down 40 p.c of his 3-pointers.

Not solely has the bench held up on this sequence, nevertheless it’s now an actual weapon for the Pacers. Indiana’s bench is offering totally different seems and matchup points for the Knicks, and its starters can relaxation as New York’s beginning unit performs nicely over 40 minutes every evening.

Do you suppose the Knicks have lastly run out of gasoline? Or will Game 4 simply be a momentary blip?

Katz: It is my job to scrutinize the Knicks, to look at each second they play and then test it out a second time simply to make certain, to seek out out the workforce’s most minute particulars, proper right down to Mamadi Diakite’s rubbish time technical foul. And but, I don’t know.

What’s clear is that the minutes caught as much as them in Game 4 once they had been listless. The protection was sloppy. Some of their finest stoppers, comparable to Josh Hart, couldn’t keep in entrance of drivers. The Pacers rocked them in transition. A workforce whose power is its defining attribute lacked all of it.

I’m undecided if the power will return. Sometimes, regardless of how a lot will a bunch has, the physique is succesful of solely a lot. But one half I do consider: The psychological errors the Knicks made in Game 4 and the botched defensive rotations or busted performs, received’t happen once more Tuesday. The Knicks know how one can execute. You don’t overlook that in a single day.

Nehm: I’m going to take a web page out of Carlisle’s playbook and say that the Knicks are going to be again to their regular type on Tuesday evening.

The afternoon tip time on Sunday didn’t do the Knicks any favors and, after an early flight dwelling on Sunday evening, they are going to have spent two nights at dwelling earlier than Game 5. All season lengthy, the Knicks have proven unbelievable will and combat. I’m not anticipating something much less in entrance of the raucous dwelling crowd at Madison Square Garden.

What is one adjustment you can see the workforce you cowl making in Game 5?

Katz: I may see the Knicks taking a web page out of the Denver Nuggets’ ebook. With Jamal Murray not 100%, Denver adjusted its offense. Starting in Game 3 of their sequence with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Nuggets used Aaron Gordon to convey the ball up more. Murray freed himself from it and it has opened up alternatives for him.

The Knicks may strive one thing comparable with their hobbled level guard. Brunson has develop into a grasp at swerving round screens. The Pacers’ full-court press has slowed New York’s offense. The Knicks may cease inbounding the ball to whoever T.J. McConnell is guarding and place it within the palms of Hart or Donte DiVincenzo. They may start their offense from there with pin-down actions for Brunson or dribble handoffs with Isaiah Hartenstein.

Nehm: This is a tricky spot as a result of it feels just like the Pacers have thrown their counterpunch, and they’ve been ready for the Knicks to do the identical. But it hasn’t occurred but. So, as a coach, why change what has been working so nicely for you for the final two video games?

The Pacers just won by 32 points, so there shouldn’t be an terrible lot to vary. But I do surprise if they are going to lean into Pascal Siakam more offensively in Game 5. In the primary 4 video games, Indiana has made 41.5 p.c from 3 and shot nicely each at dwelling and on the highway, however Game 5 may find yourself being an unpleasant, grind-it-out affair. Siakam’s dimension benefit over Hart may have a stabilizing impact on the Pacers.

What participant may very well be the X-factor in grabbing two more wins?

Katz: Josh Hart. Hart mentioned it himself: He is the Knicks’ primary supply of power, and on Sunday, it didn’t seem that means. Hart struggled defensively. He grabbed solely three rebounds. He was not his regular bouncy self defensively.

The Knicks replicate Hart’s enthusiasm. If he weapons for 15-plus rebounds over 40 minutes, New York can recapture its mojo. But if he seems as torpid as he did in Game 4, then the Knicks are in bother.

Nehm: Myles Turner. Carlisle has insisted that Turner’s level totals shouldn’t be used because the measuring stick for his success on this sequence, however his 3-point capturing may swing a recreation at Madison Square Garden within the Pacers’ favor.

And the Pacers have to win one on the highway to win this sequence. If Turner can get sizzling by connecting on 4 or more 3-pointers as he did in opposition to the Bucks in Round 1, it may very well be a difference-maker.

What must occur for the Knicks or Pacers to take this sequence?

Katz: The Knicks have to get Brunson going.

The Knicks transfer as Brunson does. Anunoby will miss Game 5. Robinson, Bojan Bogdanović and Julius Randle stay out. Especially with all of the accidents, Brunson is their supply of offense. The assault has dampened since his foot harm when he hasn’t created photographs at an All-Star degree.

But Brunson stays one of the league’s prime scorers. He is, as Thibodeau says, an offense unto himself. When he’s draining floaters and fadeaways, New York wins video games. If he can do this two more instances on this sequence, the Knicks have an opportunity to win it.

Nehm: Heading into Game 3, the Pacers opted to place 6-foot-5 wing Nesmith and his 6-10 wingspan on Brunson. It’s unclear if that’s had an influence on Brunson or if he simply isn’t wholesome sufficient to make the identical influence offensively.

Limiting Brunson is the very first thing that they should do to beat the Knicks twice within the subsequent three video games. After that, it could be so simple as persevering with to get high-level manufacturing from Haliburton and executing nicely defensively.

After a poor effort in Game 3, the Pacers had been a lot more locked in defensively, giving up fewer good 3-point seems to DiVincenzo and serving to more efficiently off of Hart. If the Pacers restrict Brunson, get high-level manufacturing from Haliburton and execute defensively, they’ll take two of the following three video games and make a stunning Eastern Conference finals look.

(Photo of Donte DiVincenzo and Tyrese Haliburton: Dylan Buell / Getty Images)