Can the retooled Knicks pull off an upset in Indiana against the Pacers?
One of the teams that has experienced an interesting turnaround from a player movement perspective is the Indiana Pacers. Victor Oladipo, who is a contender for league’s most improved player, and the 31-25 Pacers host a Knicks team that is finally forced to throw its young players out without a raft.
Kristaps Porzingis dropped a career-high 40 points on the Pacers in their first meeting this season. However, the question remains as to where the Knicks will get their volume scoring now. Per Ian Begley, Jeff Hornacek plans to play the newly acquired Emmanuel Mudiay today. TKW’s Mike Cortez broke down in his piece as to what Mudiay can bring offensively to the Knicks. It’s hard to say how many minutes Mudiay will see in his first game as a Knick. However, the squad will need all guys on deck to prevent Oladipo’s consistent drives to the cup.
Oladipo is averaging 24.3 points per game, notching 36 percent of his points in the paint. Oladipo does so much damage off the dribble and is able to get in the paint by splitting defenses. Not having KP’s interior presence means the rest of the front line will have to be quicker in helping around the rim.
The Pacers are also without their starting point guard, Darren Collison. Cory Joseph hasn’t been entirely bad as a sub-in next to Oladipo. The team is currently one of the best overall shooting teams at 48 percent. The matchup to watch for today features another rising big man.
Myles Turner vs. Enes Kanter
Turner is quietly turning into one of the NBA’s premier rim protectors. The 21-year-old is averaging 2.1 blocks per game this season, right behind KP as top dog. But the one area he’s improved in is three-point shooting. Like most big men today, Turner has added shooting from long distance to his scoring profile and it seems to be paying off for the Pacers.
Compared to last season, Turner is getting nearly 20 percent of his total scoring from beyond the arc and has improved to 35 percent. Turner’s ability to hit a three means that Kanter may have to come out of his comfort zone in the paint to guard Turner. Kanter is not a good defender outside because he struggles to move well laterally. Additionally, the Knicks are short-handed given the injury to KP and the trade of Willy Hernangómez. Expect the Pacers to give Turner some early touches inside as well as set him up in screens where he can pull up from mid and long range.
Kanter has been able to get breaks around the rim due to teams doubling KP. Those looks should decrease significantly, particularly against a swarming defense like the Pacers. This is a team that is fast at making switches, as they showed versus the Celtics where they held Horford, Theis, and Baynes 7-for-17. The Pacers are a physical team and strong in the front. Not only will Turner be trying to swat Kanter’s layups man-to-man, but the Pacers have Al Jefferson and Thaddeus Young on the inside to force Kanter to pass out of a double team.
We’ve seen a decrease in Frank Ntilikina’s minutes. The reason why could be related to his knee or it could be matchup dependent. Either way, I perceive this to be a game where his defense will be effective in plugging up the holes on the elbow. The downside is we might not see a lot of him because Oladipo is great at drawing contact.
Ideally, the Pacers being without their number one point guard leads to Hornacek seizing that opportunity to once again put in Trey Burke and let him play freely. Not only will Burke keep the ball moving, but he adds the pull-up buckets that is going to be missed without KP.
Tip is at 5 P.M.