The Knicks are facing elimination Thursday night, trailing three games to one in their playoff series against the Pacers. New York hopes that returning to play at Madison Square Garden, where the team was 31-10 during the regular season, may help them snap out of their offensive funk and force a Game 6 back in Indiana on Saturday.
Hope is not a strategy, as they say, so Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is likely to shuffle his lineups in search of one that can shoot much better than the 35 percent his team showed in its last two losses. He also is approaching the game with a supreme level of confidence.
From Marc Berman of the New York Post:
After today’s morning shootaround at Tarrytown, with do-or-die Game 5 on tap tonight, Woodson sounded very confident the series is heading back to Indianapolis.
“I’m expecting to win tonight,’’ Woodson said. “This has got to be a wakeup now. If we lose, we go home and none of us want to go home. I sure as hell don’t. I think we’re going to show a lot of pride.’’
The Knicks don’t need to show pride, they need to make shots.
New York has been a jump shooting team all year, with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith both capable of getting hot from outside. The problem in this series against the Pacers has been Indiana’s defense, which has been immaculate at times — both in the way they’ve defended on the ball, and in their rotations and closeouts on the three-point shooters.
Woodson didn’t come close to making one of those silly guarantees, but his “expectation” might be enough if he was able to convey that to his team in time for them to bring an increased level of fortitude into what could potentially be the Knicks’ final game of the season.
During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”
Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.
The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.
Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:
“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.
That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.
There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.
Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.
That place turned out to be the Pacers.
Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.
That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.
Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.
Pacers fans delivered.
They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.
Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.
The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.
“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”
Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.