The New York Knicks will take on the Indiana Pacers on Sunday in a seemingly must-win game at Madison Square Garden, but the potential lack of size on New York’s end could wind up being the x-factor. As of now, there has been no word on the statuses of big men Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, both of whom have missed recent games with injuries.
Chandler is still fighting a bulging disc in his neck, while Martin has been battling a sore knee and ankle. As a result, with Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace still recovering from injuries of their own, head coach Mike Woodson has been forced to start 6’8″ shooter Chris Copeland at the 5 and thus leaving the Knicks without a strong defensive presence in the paint.
If Copeland is forced to start against the Pacers on Sunday, New York could be sunk from the get-go. Not only were the Knicks manhandled by Indiana in the two teams last meeting on Feb. 20, but the Pacers are an excellent defensive team.
Despite ranking just 21st in points per game at 94.9, the team is the best rebounding team in the league and also ranks second in points allowed at just 90.5 per contest. Given how much the Knicks rely on a strong scoring attack as well as solid defense, this could pose to be a problem.
Moreover, if Chandler and/or Martin are unable to play, how are the Knicks going to contain Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who stands 7’2″ and weighs in at 280 pounds? Hibbert has posted 12 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game this season while shooting 45 percent from the field, and not having a man that can slow him down is going to hurt New York’s odds of winning.
Now, let’s answer the question everyone has been asking so far: why is this game so important? Well, it’s because the Knicks and Pacers each have only three games remaining, and New York holds a three-game lead over Indiana for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. A win for New York not only clinches that, but also ensures that the team will have home-court advantage over the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Should the Knicks lose and end up tied for that spot with Indiana by regular season’s end, then Indiana would seal the No. 2 seed due to holding the season series advantage.
That all being said, I seriously hope that either Woodson has a plan in place to defeat Indiana tomorrow, or that one of Chandler or Martin is able to suit up. Nothing against star scorer Carmelo Anthony, but he and teammate J.R. Smith cannot hold off Indiana by themselves.
Size is going to be needed, or else the last two games of the season will become unnecessarily intense.