Pacers Roll Over Hawks, On To New York



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ATLANTA – Lance Stephenson was just a kid the last time the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks squared off in the playoffs. The Coney Island native barely remembers the infamous “Hicks vs. Knicks” battles and all of the drama that came along with those heated and physical contests that have an indelible place in the history of both franchises.

“I really can’t remember much other than Reggie Miller hitting big shots and changing the game around,” Stephenson, the Pacers’ shooting guard said before admitting that he rooted for a team on the opposite coast while growing up in Brooklyn. “I was like nine-years-old. I was a Lakers fan. I didn’t care about the Knicks. I was all Lakers. Magic Johnson, Shaq, Eddie Jones, Kobe [Bryant] with the fro.”

Stephenson and his Pacers will get a chance to write their open chapter in this storied rivalry, courtesy of their 81-73 Game 6 win over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at Philips Arena. The Pacers chased away one ghost, snapping their 13-game losing streak to the Hawks in Atlanta, proving they can win in a hostile environment. They’ll chase another in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against the Knicks, winners in a series-clinching Game 6 of their own in Boston Friday night. Game 1 of that series is Sunday afternoon.

Stephenson and the Pacers can’t wait.

“It’s gonna be great, playing in front of my friends and family and in my hometown with the bright lights,” Stephenson said. “It’s gonna be great.”

It’s also going to be a completely different undertaking, dealing with the No. 2 seed Knicks and those raucous crowds, that arrive on time, at Madison Square Garden.

Let’s be real, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd and a much deeper and more seasoned Knicks team presents more significant challenges than a Hawks team that the Pacers should have handled in four or five games instead of six. The Pacers get just one day off between games. They flew straight from Atlanta to New York late Friday night and will have to use Saturday as a preparation day.

“This next round is going to be a totally different beast,” Pacers forward David West said. “We’re going to have to defend probably one of the best one-on-one players in the game [in Anthony]. They play small at times, too, so we know there will be some funky matchups but for the most part, we have to just concentrate on what we can control, our energy and effort and how we defend. But we have to be ready to go.”

The same way they were against the Hawks in the final two games of their first round series. After getting run off the floor here in Games 3 and 4, the Pacers went home and cleaned up a bit before Game 5. They showed up for Game 6 focused and ready to break down a Hawks team that seemed vulnerable from the start Friday night.

They led by as many as 19 points early, weathered the Hawks’ late run and put the finishing touches on the win with All-Star swingman Paul George scoring just four points on 2-for-10 shooting, both series lows). West and George Hill picked up the scoring slack, tying for game-high honors with 21 points each. Roy Hibbert added 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Stephenson chipped in with 11 rebounds of his own, eight points and six assists, helping the Pacers make the final push needed to finish off the Hawks.

The Pacers finally imposed their physical will on the Hawks, outrebounding them 53-35, long enough to break the Hawks down when it matter most, a strategy they’ll have to try to repeat against the Knicks.

“We finally got the monkey off our back in this building,” Hill said. “”It felt good tonight. We were more physical and made them take tough shots around us. We capitalized on the offensive end and made some shots, trying to get to the paint and playing inside-out. We’re happy but we have to get our hard hats back on with another game in 48 hours.”

A return to their defensive roots was the key to beating back the Hawks and will be the key against the Knicks, too.

“Our defense has been our identity all year,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “And that was the key to the last two victories. We held them to 33 percent shooting [Friday night]. We needed to guard the three[point line], we needed to guard them on the break and we needed to limit them to one shot and this was our best game in the series in doing those three things.”

The Knicks and Hawks operate in a similar fashion, albeit with much different personnel. Hawks coach Larry Drew was Knicks coach Mike Woodson‘s lead assistant for six years with these same Hawks before replacing Woodson three years ago. They share similar philosophies and similar schemes.

The Pacers split the regular season series with the Knicks with the home team winning all four games, same as they did with the Hawks. But the Knicks won’t be pushed around inside as easily as the Hawks were. The Hawks don’t have a defensive presence anything like Chandler or an enforcer like Kenyon Martin.

“Madison Square Garden is a place where you know it’s going to be crazy energy in there,” West said. “Obviously, they play well at home. We have to go in the memory bank and remember how we had some success against them during the [regular season]. It starts with Carmelo and keeping him and J.R. under control, to the extent you can control them. Our focus just has to be possession by possession, know their going to make runs, and we have to play to our advantage. Our defense is our strength and our ability to make it an ugly, grind-it-out game. And that’s what we’re looking forward to, a great series and a great Game 1.”

The Pacers passed the pre-test. They showed they could go on the road, in a tough environment and win a game when the crowd is against them and they don’t control the emotional momentum. There is confidence that is built under those circumstances, no matter who the opponent might be.

Again, the Knicks pose different challenges because they can play at different tempos, they have more than one or two players you have to worry about shooting from distance and they can spread the floor and isolate Anthony and Smith on basically anyone when they need to manufacture possessions and shots.

And they’ll have that crowd and the Garden, the same one Stephenson played in nearly a dozen times during his standout career at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High.

“I had a lot of big games at the Garden” Stephenson said and then smiled. “But this is just a regular game to me. We just have to go in there, limit our mistakes, play hard and try to get wins in their building.”

Series Hub: Knicks vs. Pacers

32 Comments

  1. Pacers in 5 or 6 period-NUFF SAID!!!

  2. Idealthereal says:

    Knicks in 6….pacers are awful on the road and can’t keep up with the Knicks’ scoring pace

  3. Marc says:

    knicks vs hicks

  4. Joe says:

    Why is everyone considering Indiana an underdog? Seriously? I just see comments like “Indiana will make it tough, and I can see them maybe pushing it to 7 games but the Knicks will win.” The only advantage the Knicks have in this series is homecourt. Both teams split the season series with the Pacers having a +4.3 differential.

    Plus, I see comments about Shumpert shutting down George, Martin shutting down West and Chandler shutting down Hibbert? If that’s the case, I can easily say George will shut down Anthony, Hibbert won’t allow Martin or Chandler to do anything down low, and Stephenson will blow by Kidd and Prigioni all day long. Doesn’t seem so one-sided now, does it?

  5. MR JAMAICA says:

    THE KNICKS IN 6

  6. Why New York will win: The Knicks love to spread the floor with a small lineup that creates mismatches. When they are hitting open shots, their offense is outstanding. Indiana will struggle to keep pace because of its oversized lineup. Anthony is too big for George but too fast for David West.

    Why Indiana will win: The Pacers drag games out and force teams to play at their pace. Hibbert, West and Tyler Hansbrough will control the paint against the smaller Knicks. They also defend the three-pointer exceptionally well and could neutralize the Knicks’ greatest strength.

    Who will win? :)

  7. New Guy says:

    I can see this game going to 6 or 7 but I want to see it go to 7.

  8. Kevin says:

    Knicks and Pacers will be a interesting playoff match up! I just hope Knicks can win this (: . Knicks in 7.

  9. nbapacersfan says:

    It’s swagger time !!!

    BLUE COLLAR / GOLD SWAGGER

  10. KNICKS says:

    KNICKS CHAMPIONS NBA 2013
    4-0 INDIAN

  11. Lets Dance says:

    I hope that Knicks win this game, thery have better team…

  12. rok says:

    Knicks should win this in 6…

  13. OUtlaw513 says:

    Pacers will win in 6. Jason Kidd is going to need to use his walker to keep up with the younger Pacers. J.R. Smith is a overrated douche bag. And “Melo” is a joke. GO PACERS

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
      YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • World Piece says:

      Aren’t the Knicks just the washed up thugs from Denver 3 or four years ago!

  14. Smalls says:

    So… you don’t talk about Prigioni…

  15. KnicksChamp2013 says:

    Watch out, Knicks in 4 to happen.

    • seljr257 says:

      this will be a tough series. even a knick fan who watches a lot of pacer’s games wont say that knicks will sweep the pacers. they splitted the series, dumbsh**. think before u comment.

  16. asd says:

    OK, DO NOT TALK ABOUT PRIGIONI

  17. sanjay says:

    this will be a tough series!

  18. Samuel says:

    Knicks in 7
    Woody=COY

  19. Justin says:

    The Knicks play small at times. Roy and David will take advantage and smash those boys

  20. The west is the best says:

    I would love to see this series get as intense as that one, but if it did with how games are called now there would promptly be flagrant 2s and technicals called and half of both teams would be suspended for most of the series.

    Fingers crossed we see a headbutt though! Maybe Paul George can get some trash talking tips for Reggie.

  21. acryn says:

    it’s time for both teams to challenge who’s better the pacers or new york knicks,well lets see who’s better in the end,good luck for both teams enjoy the second round playoffs,ciao

  22. McLovin' says:

    CP3 and Dwight should go to Atl. Let Smith walk out. Dwight and Horford scoring inside, Korver hitting long range bombs and CP3 controlling the game

  23. Pacerfan34 says:

    Lets go pacers !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! make reggie proud

  24. I would like to see the Knicks battle the Heat…the Pacers are not on a 100% force simply cuz Granger is on on their side

  25. DONT CLICK MY NSME!!!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED says:

    PACERS IN 6.