The series between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers is the most even matchup currently constructed in the playoffs. I like both teams a lot and think either could give the Miami Heat a run for their money if they were to meet later in the playoffs. With this series tied 1-1 and heading to Indiana for Game 3, I am giving the slight edge to the Pacers. The Pacers may not have a superstar like the Knicks do with Carmelo Anthony, but they have a great collection of talent and play very tough defense.
The key for Game 3 in my eyes, is J.R. Smith. This guy simply needs to be that second scoring options for the Knicks in order for them to continue to be competitive. In a Game 2, which the Knicks dominated 105-79, Anthony broke out of his slump and led all scorers with 32 points. Smith only had eight points in 30 minutes of play. This is not how the Knicks have won all year. Sure, occasionally Carmelo is so great that he can win a game almost on his own. That being said, the Knicks are a much more dangerous team when Smith, who was the NBA 6th man of the year, comes off the bench firing and takes over that scoring role for the second unit.
After more than two months on the shelf, Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire will make his return tonight. It ought to be very interesting to see what kind of spark that Stoudemire gives the Knicks. I am sure that his minutes will be very limited, but he gives the Knicks another big body to bang inside with Roy Hibbert and David West. I think Stoudemire can make a big difference.
The Pacers are simply a tough team to deal with, especially defensively. The Knicks have to play patiently on offense, taking the best shots when they are available. If Anthony or Smith get hot early, ride that hot hand until it cools down. New York is not a team with a bunch of tough guys, they need to play their own game of high scoring basketball.
Prediction: New York 107, Indiana 103
I think Game 3 will be a close game throughout. I believe that Anthony continues to get over his slump with a very solid game, and Smith finally gives the Knicks what they need off of the bench. Stoudemire gives them some much needed athleticism inside, and in limited minutes gives the team a big spark. Indiana keeps it close, but in the end, the playmakers for the Knicks take over.