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Knicks Face Pacers in Renewal of Playoff Rivalry Past

It might seem like a flashback to the 1990s, when the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers faced each other in the postseason six times in an eight-year span when the franchises begin a second-round clash on Monday night. These teams are completely different than a generation ago, with both looking to earn a trip to the NBA Conference Finals.

Indiana hadn’t won a series in a decade before getting past the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. The Pacers are looking for their first conference finals appearance since losing in back-to-back seasons against the Miami Heat in 2014 and 2015.

Knicks Face Pacers in Renewal of Playoff Rivalry Past
Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks / Tim Nwachukwu / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The Knicks have had a longer drought, lasting making it to the conference finals in 2000, when they lost to … the Pacers. That was a season after New York last advanced to the NBA Finals, losing to the San Antonio Spurs.

Both teams are trying to forge new identities with long postseason runs this season, but this series should be as hard-fought as any of those battles from a couple of decades ago.

The Knicks are getting the edge in the series odds at -265, with the Pacers getting +225 to advance. Let’s take a closer look at this series in our NBA betting preview to help you determine how you want to wager.


Guard Play Is Key

These teams are led from the point guard position, with Jalen Brunson powering the Knicks and Tyrese Haliburton being the spark for the Pacers. Brunson has been outstanding in these playoffs, leading the league in scoring at 35.5 points per game. But he also sets up his teammates for open looks, ranking third in assists per game in the postseason with 9.0.

Just ahead of Brunson in the assist rankings is Haliburton with 9.3 per contest. The All-Star hasn’t been scoring as much in the postseason (16.0, down from 20.1 ppg in the regular season), but he’s come up clutch when needed. Down the stretch of the only close game in the series against the Bucks, it was Haliburton finishing with a triple-double of 18 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds, scoring the game-winning three-point play in overtime.

While Brunson needs to score for the Knicks to be successful – the team’s next leading scorer in the postseason is Josh Hart at 16.8 points per game – Haliburton can pick his spots. The Pacers have more scoring depth, so there will be a different approach offensively to the star guards’ games.


Pacers vs Knicks Odds and Spreads


Inside Strength Favors Pacers

As stated above, Indiana has other players who can score the ball. Forward Pascal Siakam, obtained in a midseason trade from the Toronto Raptors, brings championship experience to the frontcourt and has played like it so far.

He leads Indiana in scoring and rebounding in the postseason, averaging 22.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He started the Milwaukee series with back-to-back games of 36 and 37 points, then let others take the lead in scoring.

Center Myles Turner also had a couple of big games against the Bucks, scoring 29 points in Games 3 and 4, including connecting on seven 3-pointers in the Game 4 victory.

New York doesn’t have a lot of frontcourt depth with Julius Randle sidelined since January with a shoulder injury and Bojan Bogdanovic being lost for the rest of the playoffs after hurting his foot against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.

The Knicks often go small, putting forward OG Anunoby at the 5, which might work out more in this series with the Pacers’ only true low-block threat being Siakam. Still, New York has to hit the boards as well to keep Indiana from getting multiple attempts at the basket on a possession.


Defense vs Offense

This will be the classic battle of a fast-paced offense against a defense that wants to shut it down. Indiana was the NBA’s top-scoring team in the regular season, averaging 123.3 points per game, while New York ranked second in the league in points allowed with 108.2 per contest.

There is a direct correlation between the Pacers’ scoring and their success, as shown in the first round against Milwaukee. The Bucks held Indiana under 100 points twice, the first times it had happened all season, and those were the two games that the Pacers lost in the series.

When Indiana can get out and run and bomb away from 3-point range, it can be hard to beat. But, if the Knicks have their way, they’ll justify the NBA odds and the Pacers won’t get to do either of those things.

New York head coach Tom Thibodeau is known for his teams being defensive-minded, and with a lineup that includes Anunoby, Hart, Mitchell Robinson, and Donte DiVincenzo, this version of the Knicks is just that. The question is, can the Knicks do that against the Pacers in this series.

In the regular season, Indiana won two of the three matchups it had with New York, averaging 132.5 points in the two victories and scoring 105 points in the loss. If the Knicks can slow down the Pacers’ attack, they will have a chance in this series. If they can’t, it could be trouble for New York’s chances of advancing.


Another Classic Series

These teams have played some exciting basketball in the postseason already, and both have dynamic scoring guards that lead the way. This series should be back and forth throughout, with neither team having a significant edge until the end.

New York has played well on the road, and it has the homecourt advantage in the series, so we’re giving the Knicks the slightest of edges to win. When you’re doing your NBA betting on this second-round series, go with New York to survive and advance.



Questions of the Day

When was the last time the Pacers and Knicks played each other in the postseason?

New York defeated Indiana in the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the last meeting between these franchises in the postseason.

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