After getting routed by the Knicks in game 2 by a score of 105 to 79, the Pacers look to take back the series lead in game 3 tonight at home in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Game 2 left a sour taste in the mouths of the Pacer players who saw their 2 point lead late in the third quarter evaporate by a 30 to 2 run from the Knickerbockers led by superstar forward Carmelo Anthony who scored 16 of the 30 points from the run. Anthony finished the game with 32 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Knicks to a must win game 2.
The 105-79 victory for New York was the biggest lob-sided playoff win for the Knicks since April 24th, 1992.
But with a physical team like the Pacers you can almost guarantee they will bounce back from that devastating loss. You would expect the Pacers to go back to their physical big man play that led them to a game one victory, something that was taken away in game 2 because of the 21 turnovers the Pacers committed.
But players like Roy Hibbert, David West, and Tyler Hansbrough will have a new face to deal with as all-star forward Amare Stoudemire looks to return back to the Knicks line-up after missing 2 months following surgery to clean out debris in his right knee.
There is always that debate for coaches if they should or shouldn’t let a vital player to their ball club who suffered a serious injury during the regular season that required surgery for the player, to come back and be apart of their teams rotation in the playoffs. Without Stoudemire the Knicks were still able to clinch the 2nd seed in the east convincingly and won their first playoff series in 13 years. But Knicks head coach Mike Woodson believes Amare can make a positive difference against the Pacers.
According to an article on ESPN.com coach Woodson said, “If I didn’t think Amare was important to our team, then I wouldn’t even consider that . But Amare can still play, and I think he proved that in the short time he was back this last time.”
The Pacers and head coach Frank Vogel dealt with a similar situation late in March with all-star forward Danny Granger. Granger was dealing with a left knee injury throughout the regular season that sidelined him for most of the games. So when Coach Vogel was asked if he would try to work Granger into the rotation to get him ready for the playoffs, he indicated it wouldn’t be an ideal situation. A week later Granger decided to have surgery in his left knee and was out for the remainder of the year.
I believe it all comes down to chemistry when making decision to letting a player play after an injury. When Granger came back for the Pacers he seemed out of sink and not the type of player he was a year ago. Stoudemire on the other hand provides scoring and another big man presence for New York, which is a necessity going up against this Pacers team. And with 6th man of the year J.R. Smith questionable for game 3 due to an illness, the Knicks will need scoring from whoever they can get it from. Coach Woodson was clear with what he expects from his big man as he has already indicated he looks to let Stoudemire come off the bench and play 10-15 minutes in game 3. So I believe it’s a win-win situation for the Knicks having a guy like Amare back. Both coaches made the right decision here with their injured players.
So with all that said, I believe the Pacers will the able to take care of business at home and take the series lead going into game 4. The Pacers will look to go back to their big man presence inside with Hibbert and West and I expect Paul George to go neck and neck with Anthony throughout the game to where Carmelo won’t be able to take over like he did in game 2. Defense and rebounding will be the difference in this game, which are stats that both favor the Pacers. Expect a sluggish game 3 with a final score of 92-84 in Indiana’s favor.