The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers will renew an old rivalry on Wednesday night when the two Eastern Conference squads face off at Madison Square Garden. In the nineties, the Knicks and Pacers were two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and they took part in some classic playoff battles. While it is only a regular season match up on Wednesday, the game has large implications for both teams.
For the Pacers, they will be looking to win their fifth straight and stay ahead of Miami in the Eastern Conference standings. Indiana currently sits atop of the East with a record of 50-17. After a victory in Cleveland, the Heat moved to just three games behind the Pacers. The Pacers have stated how important it is for them to secure the number one seed in the East heading into the NBA playoffs.
Game seven of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals was played in Miami. If that deciding game had been played in Indiana, the home crowd may have been enough to give the Pacers the edge in the series. The Pacers, and everyone else in the East realize that their biggest threat is the Miami Heat. If the Eastern Conference Finals come down to a rematch between the Heat and Pacers, Indiana will want to go in with any advantage they can.
For the Knicks, Wednesday night’s tilt at home is important for different reasons than that of the Pacers. It is no secret that the Knicks have struggled this season. After putting together 54 wins the previous year, the Knicks have stumbled out to a 27-40 record, and have been surrounded in drama for much of the NBA season. Despite their poor record, the Knicks are not out of the playoff picture in the lowly Eastern Conference.
The Knicks have put together a stretch of good games in winning their last six. Not only have the Knicks won six in a row, but they have won six in a row by double digits, which is something not done by the franchise since 1969. In their last game against Milwaukee, Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points, while rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 points of his own from the bench.
In the midst of their win streak, the Knicks also saw a change in their front office, as former Lakers head coach, Phil Jackson was brought in as president of the team. Jackson was a player with the Knicks during their last championship season in 1973. Yeah, it has been a while.
With Jackson at the helm, the Knicks will be looking to continue their recent winning ways and try to squeeze a playoff berth out of their sub-par season. They are currently four games back of the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the East. The Hawks have been riddled with injuries this season, but have found their footing recently and reeled off five straight wins. If the Knicks want to catch Atlanta and sneak into the playoffs, head coach Mike Woodson will have to keep the team focused and playing at the level that they have been as of late.
The Pacers have won the previous two meetings, but expect the old Knicks Pacers rivalry to be renewed in Madison Square Garden, as both teams will be looking to extend their win streaks and begin their push towards the postseason.
Commentary By Eric Kummel