The Knicks are seeking revenge for their Halloween night collapse at home against the Pacers as they travel to Indiana to complete a road trip.
The New York Knicks are riding high after their insane second-half comeback and overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. Fortunately, they don’t have a back-to-back and had a day off to prepare to take on their next opponent, the Indiana Pacers, on Sunday.
They’ll hope to have enough in the tank to finish off the weekend and possibly avenge a Halloween loss from the last time these two teams met. The Pacers won that first meeting, 107-101, and the Knicks now look to even the score.
Keeping up with the Pacers
Since starting things off with a Dec. 1st loss to the Sacramento Kings, Indiana has straightened itself out and is currently riding a red-hot six-game winning streak—which also stretches back to eight wins over its last 10 games.
They topped off their run of games with impressive victories over Eastern Conference title contenders Philadelphia and Milwaukee, beating both teams by double figures earlier in the week. Entering Sunday, Indiana has a 19-10 record and the third spot in the conference standings. Half a game behind the second-place Bucks, Indiana hopes to continue feeding the streak.
The Pacers have been able to achieve this recent success mostly without star player Victor Oladipo. Last year’s NBA Most Improved Player was sidelined for about a month with a knee injury. In his absence, Bojan Bogdanovic has averaged a team-high 19.1 points through the last 14 games—ever since Oladipo first went down. The 6-foot-8 wing isn’t an easy player to guard. He’s got a great shooting stroke, but he’s capable of scoring at all three levels of the game. Apart from Bogdanovic, keep an eye out for Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis—two big men that have been playing well as of late.
Young is coming off of back-to-back double-doubles, and has been in the Pacers’ highest scorer in each of their last two games. He’s scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games. Sabonis continues to be a double-double machine and a valuable asset off the bench. He’s achieved the feat in 12 of 27 appearances this season. In the previous showdown with the Knicks, he tormented New York and stepped in front of Oladipo to lead the team during that Halloween clash. Sabonis scored 30 points and shot a perfect 12-for-12 on the floor—expect New York not to let that happen again, or let him even come close to shooting that well.
These guys have been holding things together while Oladipo was out. Oladipo returned to the lineup against Milwaukee on Dec. 12th, but he’s still working to get back to prime shape. Dipo has been contributing in other areas of the game, but he hasn’t been the leading scoring weapon for Indiana. Over the last two games, he’s scored an average of 12.5 points and is shooting at a 10-for-27 (37.0 percent) clip. However, he grabbed 10 boards and dished out six assists in his first game back, and in his previous game with Philadelphia he dished out nine assists.
The Build Up and the Bounce Back
The Knicks aren’t doing as hot as the Pacers. They’re 9-21, but they certainly haven’t stopped fighting. Their explosive second-half comeback win over Charlotte was impressive, and it’ll be interesting to see how they build off of that on Sunday. They hung in there the last time these two teams met, and despite the stark contrast in records, it wasn’t an easy win for Indiana by any means.
Emmanuel Mudiay is coming off of a career-high 34-point performance and will look continue his much-improved month of December (7.5 points per game higher than last month). He was electric, and so was Kevin Knox. Knox kept the Knicks afloat for the first half, and his ever-growing confidence is a great sign for his individual growth and the Knicks organization. Although he tapered off in the second half, Knox has been playing very well as of late. Over the last three games, he’s averaging 21.7 points, shooting 43.6 on the floor and an even better 50 percent showing from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-9 rookie has had a hot streak of his own, and it’ll be interesting to see how he feeds into that.
Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway Jr. will try to bounce back from a lackluster 12-point game. The Knicks’ leading scorer was a major weapon for New York in its previous meeting with Indiana, when he dropped a game-high 37 points. The Knicks managed to eke out that victory over Charlotte despite a quieter game from Hardaway, but it’s hard to imagine they could do the same on Sunday. The Pacers barely slowed him down on Halloween—can he enjoy a repeat performance?
According to Newsday‘s Steve Popper, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke are probable for Sunday’s game. Damyean Dotson is questionable. Mitchell Robinson (ankle) is out, joining Allonzo Trier.
Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday.