You can think that the Knicks are getting back to where they were last season, or you can believe their six-game winning streak is nothing more than the product of a soft schedule. Say what you want about New York’s hot play of late, but it has the team back in the playoff race and is finally bringing some joy to The Big Apple. However, if the Knicks want to be considered as serious contenders, they’ll need to keep it rolling against the Pacers tonight.
One year ago, these teams were duking it out for the second seed in the East, but the 2013-14 season has brought a much different fate to these rivals. While Indiana has steamrolled their way to a 50-17 record, New York has dug themselves quite a hole, currently sitting four and a half games behind the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks have been hot of late, but a nationally televised statement win against the top team in the Eastern Conference (at least record wise) would be the perfect way to announce their arrival back into the playoff conversation.
You know the drill. Roy Hibbert will probably torch the Knicks on the glass, but it’ll be interesting to see how the new-look starting lineup holds up against a team as big as the Pacers are inside. Amar’e Stoudemire has been starting at power forward, and while his presence is limited defensively, he’ll at least be able to help out from the weak side on penetration. Paul George will do Paul George things, and now that Carmelo Anthony is playing more small forward, it’ll be up to him to try and keep the young stud contained. It’ll be important for Melo to stay out of foul trouble, and the rest of the team will need to help out without leaving Indiana’s shooters wide open. Easier said than done.
The game will be preceded by a protest of ownership by a group called Knicks Fans For Life. Their intent is far from malicious, but they do want James Dolan to know that they aren’t pleased with the current state of the team, and want to make sure that he lets Phil Jackson do his job. Dolan has been quite responsive since the protest started gaining public traction a couple of weeks ago. There’s a reason that the announcement of Jackson’s hiring was held the day before the event, and the Knicks have even invited season ticket holders into the arena earlier than usual for a VIP experience featuring meet-and-greet opportunities with alumni and vouchers for free food and drinks. It’ll be a unique experience, and TOK will keep you updated with pictures and videos of the happenings on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Those can both be followed here and here.
However, all of those off the court antics won’t matter once things tip-off. This is the ultimate litmus test for the streaking Knicks, who still have plenty of work to do no matter what’s going on outside of the arena. It’s crunch time for New York and they need this win in order to put the Hawks on official notice. The game gets underway at 8:00, and as alway, TOK will have you covered.