The New York Knicks kept their season alive with an 85-75 triumph in Game 5 at home, so the Eastern Conference Semifinals now turns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 6 as the Indiana Pacers try again to close things out.
Chris Copeland provided Mike Woodson a huge boost off the bench, notching 13 points in 19 minutes. New York led early and was in control for nearly the entire game. Carmelo Anthony regained his shooting touch, and the Knicks were the more aggressive unit.
Indiana struggled without point guard George Hill, who was ruled out due to a concussion suffered in Game 4. The Pacers dished out just 12 assists and committed 19 turnovers en route to 36.2 percent shooting.
Frank Vogel hopes to have his floor general back at full strength to clinch the series at home.
Date/Time: Saturday, May 18, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Series Record: 3-2 Pacers
Key Storyline: Will George Hill Return; Will It Matter?
Without George Hill in the lineup in Game 5, Indiana simply lacked offensive consistency.
D.J. Augustin wasn't able to generate consistent offense in his stead, and Indiana relied on a combination of Paul George and Lance Stephenson to help out with the facilitating.
ESPN explained just how weak the Pacers were in pick-and-roll situations without Hill:
The Pacers' pick-and-roll ball handlers shot 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) with four turnovers in Game 5 against the Knicks. The Pacers struggled on those plays without George Hill, who shot 50.0 percent as the pick-and-roll ball-handler in the first four games of the series.
Hill is questionable to return for Game 6, and he was scheduled to take another concussion test Friday night.
Indiana's odds of clinching the series ride heavily on Hill's status. His return would significantly upgrade Frank Vogel's defense (in addition to the playmaking and shooting ability he provides). He's done a terrific job on Raymond Felton for much of the series.
If Hill comes back and is near 100 percent, the Blue and Gold will be that much closer to this year's Eastern Conference Finals.
Series Star So Far: Carmelo Anthony
It hasn't been a pretty series for 'Melo, and he's endured a couple rough games along the way. However, he's the best player in the series, and he saved New York Thursday night.
Anthony has drawn a lot of criticism for his one-on-one exploits, and in Game 3 in particular, they hindered the Knicks' efficiency. Nevertheless, he averaged 28.7 points and 6.9 boards per night in the regular season, and he has given his club a chance to force a Game 7.
He shot 12-of-28 (42.9 percent) in Game 5, including eight crucial points in the fourth quarter to keep Indiana at arm's length. Taking care of business at home is one thing, but can Anthony translate it to Indy for Game 6?
Projected Starting Lineups
Knicks: Pablo Prigioni, PG; Raymond Felton, SG; Iman Shumpert, SF; Carmelo Anthony, PF; Tyson Chandler, C
Pacers: George Hill, PG (questionable); Lance Stephenson, SG; Paul George, SF; David West, PF; Roy Hibbert, C
Knicks Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
Tyson Chandler (back), probable for Game 6
Pacers Injury Report
George Hill (head), questionable for Game 6
Knicks Will Win If...
At least three players generate efficient offense.
Getting three or four players to produce at a healthy clip is easier said than done, but the Knicks have the resources to make it happen.
If Raymond Felton can shoot a high percentage while doling out five to eight assists, that's a good start. His effectiveness might hinge on George Hill's return for Indiana.
Now, we get to the tricky part. Can 'Melo and J.R. Smith both produce on the same night?
Although Smith has yet to find a rhythm in this series, he's gradually playing better. He was driving with purpose, dishing to teammates and clamping down defensively in the Game 5 win. A hot shooting night might be just around the corner.
Getting Chris Copeland to chime in with these three would be magnificent for Woodson.
Will all four keep the flow going, or will Indy enjoy a stagnant version of the Knicks?
Pacers Will Win If...
Hill returns and the team wins the aggression battle on both ends.
Hill's absence was certainly a factor in the Pacers' Game 5 loss, but it wasn't the only factor.
New York was more aggressive and confident, and that manifested itself in the undersized Knicks nearly winning the rebounding battle against the bigger Pacers. 'Melo and Tyson Chandler were assertive early and often, so Paul George and Roy Hibbert got into some serious foul trouble.
The Pacers can't afford to commit 19 turnovers while forcing only 10. They also can't afford to shoot 19-of-33 from the charity stripe.
Their passes must be crisper, they must be more emphatic on cuts and post-ups, and they must reclaim dominance in the rebounding department. At this point in the series, it's about who wants it more, and Indiana needs to use its home crowd to fuel that extra edge.
Prediction: Pacers 94, Knicks 88
Even if Hill isn't 100 percent, his presence in Indiana's lineup and comfortability in the pick-and-roll will give the Pacers steady production from quarter to quarter.
Don't expect New York to go quietly, as it will unlikely deliver another ugly road performance as it did in Games 3 and 4. 'Melo will be driven, and I would be surprised if he scored fewer than 30 points.
Ultimately, the Pacers have the personnel and the home court to wear the Knicks down. Hill will challenge the Knicks' perimeter shooting, George will make Anthony work for everything, and Hibbert and West will remind New York that the paint is Pacers territory.
A Game 7 would have been fun, but it's not in the cards.
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