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Knicks-Pacers Game 5: Now or never for Melo and company

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

The Pacers have been first to the ball vs. the Knicks in this series.   (USATSI)
The Pacers have been first to the ball vs. the Knicks in this series. (USATSI)

A preview of Thursday night's Game 5 between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers.

1. Where We Are: New York has been outplayed badly in this series. The Pacers have held control for the fourth quarter of their three victories and had a lead in the third quarter of their loss before a monumental collapse offensively.

It's 3-1 Pacers, and Indiana smells blood. The Knicks tried running heavy isolation stuff on the dribble. No good. They tried focusing on the pick and roll and shooting when the defense clogged the lane. No good. They've tried going big, going small, everything. Nothing has worked.

So now the Knicks have to come up with something. Specifically points. They have to come up with points. They have to flip the style of this series, the trends in this series, the pattern of this series. Otherwise, the best Knicks season since the '90s is going down in big Melo-painted flames.

2. The Big Number: 16.4 percent. That's the percentage of total field goals by the Pacers in this series from mid-range. That's a huge reduction from their regular-season number of 27.7 percent. So, where did all those mid-range jumpers go? To the perimeter. The Pacers are taking a considerably greater number of threes in this series. So if they're not hitting jumpers -- which they're not; they're an abysmal jumpshooting team -- you want threes to maximize the points that you get. And that's what they've done.

The rest have moved to the paint. The Pacers took their mid-range shots and made them more efficient. So, despite their offense struggling, they're creating more points per possession, and that has been big in this series. If the Knicks don't run the Pacers off the 3-point line more, the Pacers can pace the gap between the two teams and coast off to Miami.

3. Key Adjustment: No doubling for the Knicks. They doubled aggresively in Game 4, and good news! They held David West and Roy Hibbert in check offensively! But they gave up threes, cuts to the rim and were caught scrambling to recover on the perimeter.

The Pacers' spacing is too good and their bigs too good at passing. The Knicks can trap aggressively if the bigs turn into a defender. But in the post, they have to stay home. They dared the Pacers to make them pay, and they did.

The Knicks have to live with a huge game from West or Hibbert. They can't afford to open up the rest of the offense.

4. The Big Story: Carmelo Anthony, in Madison Square Garden, in an elimination game, down 3-1, in the best season that the Knicks have had in more than a decade.

No pressure.

It's not fair because his teammates, scheme and coaches have failed as well in this series, but Anthony wanted this. He wanted to be the guy in New York. He wanted to be the hero, the superstar. This is on him, whether it's fair or not.

A loss or another struggling game for Anthony would be devastating to the perception of him as a leader and a winner. The storylines will swallow him alive, regardless of the way that he plays. Likewise, make a bunch of contested shots, win the game, and he's a hero. It's not accurate, it's not nuance, it's not fair, but this is Melo's life, and he wanted it this way.

5. The Facts: 8:00 p.m. ET tipoff. No injuries for either team are expected to interfere with availability.

 
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