The New York Knicks held off one strong defensive team to advance past the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2000. The Knicks will face another rugged defensive team when they host the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the conference semifinals on Sunday. The Boston Celtics, who fell to New York in six games, did not feature the size that Indiana will bring with Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George.
Carmelo Anthony snapped out of a shooting funk at precisely the right moment on Friday, ending a string of 19 straight misses from 3-point range with a dagger in the final minutes that staved off a late Boston surge. Anthony took on a host of different defenders in the Celtics' series and will likely be matched up against George or West against the Pacers. West could see time against Anthony if the Knicks elect to stick with a smaller lineup. Indiana split four games with New York in the regular season but lost in both of its trips to Madison Square Garden.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE PACERS: Indiana snapped a 13-game losing streak in Atlanta in Game 6 and brought out its good defense for the final two games of the series. After allowing the Hawks to shoot 44 percent or better in the first four games, the Pacers stifled them in the final two. That included a first half in which Indiana held Atlanta to 29 points on Friday. The Pacers have plenty of options offensively and leaned on George for most of the series with the Hawks. The All-Star forward struggled in Game 6 but West and George Hill were there to pick up the slack with 21 points apiece. Indiana enjoyed a huge advantage on the glass against Atlanta, outrebounding the Hawks 104-63 in the final two games of the series, but could be forced further out of the paint against a New York team that likes to shoot 3-pointers.
ABOUT THE KNICKS: Anthony had a brutal series shooting the ball against the Celtics but came through with two big buckets down the stretch in Game 6. Anthony shot 30.5 percent from the field, including 1-for-18 from 3-point range, over the final three games of the series and told reporters that he felt his left arm popping “in and out” of his shoulder in the fourth quarter of Game 6. The star forward will play in Game 1 but New York could choose to use a bigger lineup in part to keep that shoulder away from West in the paint. A bigger unit would mean playing Kenyon Martin alongside Tyson Chandler, who finally declared himself 100 percent healthy in Game 6. The Knicks also have Amar'e Stoudemire (knee) trying to work his way back, though his return at any point in the series is uncertain. New York held the Celtics to an average of 82.3 points in round 1.
1. Knicks G J.R. Smith went 8-for-27 from the floor in the final two games against Boston.
2. Hibbert recorded only one double-double in the first round - a 17-point, 11-rebound effort in Game 6.
3. New York outscored the Celtics by 56 points while Chandler was in the game during the first-round series.
PREDICTION: Knicks 88, Pacers 85