A classic rivalry that dates back to the ’90s is set to ignite once more as the Indiana Pacers (27-21, 6th in the Eastern Conference) embark on a journey to face off against the New York Knicks (31-17, 3rd in the Eastern Conference). Both teams have been proactive in the midseason trade market, making a concerted effort to bolster their rosters for an extended playoff run.
In their most recent outing, the Pacers suffered a narrow defeat against the Boston Celtics, succumbing 129-124, yet they managed to cover the 7.5-point spread as underdogs. Meanwhile, the Knicks handled business with ease, dispatching the Utah Jazz with a 118-103 victory as 2.5-point home favorites. This clash marks the second of three scheduled meetings between these squads this season, with the Pacers having claimed victory in the initial matchup with a commanding 14-point lead back in December. The stage is set for tipoff at 7:30 PM in the iconic Madison Square Garden, New York City.
For the Indiana Pacers, their recent loss to the Celtics was a setback, but they had won their previous three encounters and are determined to cling to their current 6th place in the Eastern Conference standings. The 6th seed position is crucial as it grants exemption from the play-in tournament, and the Pacers are keen to maintain their position. Against the Celtics, the Pacers showcased a well-balanced attack, with seven out of nine players scoring in double figures. Aaron Nesmith led the charge with an impressive 26 points and 12 rebounds, well above his usual statistics, in a closely contested match.
Tyrese Haliburton, who will be starting in the All-Star game this season, is leading the NBA in assists, averaging an astounding 12.5 assists per game. Standing at 6’5, Haliburton is the Pacers’ top scorer, averaging 23.3 points per game, and is their most lethal three-point shooter, with 3.3 made threes per game at an impressive 39.7% shooting from beyond the arc. Haliburton recently returned to action after missing a few games and contributed 13 points and 10 assists against Boston. Pascal Siakam, another star player, is a consistent scorer, averaging 21.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in his seven appearances for Indiana. Myles Turner, the team’s formidable center, possesses the ability to shoot from long range and protect the rim, boasting averages of 17.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Aaron Nesmith has been a recent starter, chipping in with an average of 12.4 points per game from the wing. Buddy Hield adds another dimension as a wing shooter, averaging 12.3 points per game in the starting lineup. Key bench contributors include Obi Toppin, Jalen Smith, and Andrew Nembhard. In terms of team statistics, the Pacers rank 2nd in the NBA in offensive efficiency but are 26th in defensive efficiency, according to dunksandthrees.com. They are known for their high tempo, playing at the 2nd fastest pace in the league.
The New York Knicks are grappling with an injury-plagued roster, with Mitchell Robinson sidelined for the entire season and Julius Randle expected to miss multiple weeks due to a shoulder injury. OG Anunoby, who sat out the last game against Utah due to an elbow injury, may make a return. However, Jalen Brunson remains a beacon of hope, leading the team with an impressive 26.8 points per game and 6.5 assists per game. Brunson has been in stellar form, scoring 29 or more points in his last three outings and maintaining a 42.2% shooting accuracy from beyond the arc, sinking 2.8 threes per game. Two other Villanova alumni join him on the perimeter, with Donte DiVincenzo typically starting and contributing 12.2 points per game, and Josh Hart filling in for Anunoby, averaging 7.4 points per game.
In the frontcourt, the Knicks have undergone a transformation with Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa, who combined for an impressive 32 points and 17 rebounds in their recent clash against the Jazz. Quentin Grimes and Jericho Sims have been logging significant minutes off the bench. As for team statistics, the Knicks rank 9th in offensive efficiency and 6th in defensive efficiency, adopting a slower offensive tempo, which ranks 27th in the NBA.