The injury-depleted New York Knicks are set to take on the tough and defensive Indiana Pacers in a battle for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, and New York is not going win unless head coach Mike Woodson can find a way to slow down Pacers star forward Paul George.
The dynamic dunker absolutely broke out this season, largely due to teammate Danny Granger‘s lengthy absence as a result of a knee injury. As Indiana’s new go-to guy, George posted a career-best 17.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest. The only mark against him is that he got a bit trigger-happy at times, shooting just 42 percent from the field and 37 percent from long-range.
Just the same, he performed well enough to earn a trip to the All-Star Game and is one of the most athletic players in the league. Oh, and in case that isn’t enough reason that the Knicks need to slow him down today, let’s not forget that he has absolutely torched New York in three games against them this year.
Over that stretch, George has averaged 23.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. Indiana may not be the strongest scoring team, but the Knicks’ inability to defend teams that like to run has helped swing the pendulum in the Pacers’ favor in the teams’ last two meetings.
Throw in that New York may not have two key players in Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin today, and stopping George’s attack becomes all the more critical in the quest for a victory, not to mention clinching the No. 2 seed.
This means that guys like Iman Shumpert and/or Jason Kidd must play top-notch defense on George from start to finish. If he is off his game, and he has been as of late (13.6 points, six rebounds, 1.8 steals, 33 percent FG% and 26 percent 3P%), then a lot of wind is suddenly taken out of Indiana’s sails.
Let him have a good game, however, and this game is bound to be a close one from start to finish. New York cannot afford to look weak under any circumstances at this point in the season.