The Knicks and Pacers will finally return to the court tonight after last playing Tuesday.
The Pacers are 4-1, including a 125-91 win over the Knicks in February, after at least three days rest. The Knicks are 3-3 and have been outscored by seven points in such games.
Meaningful? Maybe not. That’s a fairly small sample. But it’s worth paying attention to how the Knicks’ older players handle the long layoff and how both coaches gameplan after so much time to adjust.
Amar’e Stoudemire will return after an even longer hiatus, and that could be much more meaningful.
Stoudemire, who last played March 7, averaged 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game this season. He’s no longer the same player who received Most Value Player votes just two years ago, but Stoudemire is still 6-foot-10, and that could pay dividends against a big and physical Pacers team.
So far in this series, the Knicks have been more successful when using taller lineups. An average height of 6-foot-5.5 splits the lineups New York has used about evenly (11 shorter and 12 taller), but results are nowhere close to even:
- Lineups with an average height taller than 6-foot-5.5: +21 in 35 minutes
- Lineups with an average height shorter than 6-foot-5.5: –2 in in 60 minutes
Stoudemire will at least allow the Knicks to play taller lineups more often. But big lineups haven’t exactly negated Indiana’s advantages.
The Pacers have dominated the glass in the series. The Knicks’ offensive-rebounding percentage (23.8) would have ranked 26th in the regular season, and their defensive-rebounding percentage (72.7) would have ranked 25th. No team rebounded so poorly on both ends during the regular season.
Stoudemire is not a lock to save the Knicks on the boards. In addition to working his way back into game shape, he posted career lows in defensive- and total-rebound percentages.
But every bit helps, especially when J.R. Smith might not play.