The Pacers are a weird team right now, for a lot of reasons.
The old Reggie Miller days are long gone, to the point where many Knicks fans struggle to fully grasp the depths of hatred most oldheads have reserved for the Pacers. Also gone are Roy Hibbert, David West, and George Hill, who sonned the Knicks in the playoffs to end the incredible 2012-13 season. On top of that, coach Frank Vogel was fired by President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird, who himself has gone from "untouchable" to "maybe he's actually senile" faster than anyone in recent NBA history.
What does this mean? Well, all of us will perpetually root for Pacers failure until the end of time itself, but the current iteration of this squad is just boring as hell. There's not much to hate right now. Everything about them screams "mediocre" and "incompetent team building" (which I realize is rich coming from a Knicks blog). After a busy offseason that had the Pacers talked up as one of the top squads in the East, it's become obvious that there are serious holes in their roster, on both sides of the ball (and this isn't just hindsight -- personally, I had them pegged as the 8 seed).
On offense, this is the Paul George show. Right now, I'm getting Carmelo in 2013-2015 vibes from George; superstar talent, wasting away on a middling team destined to go nowhere. We know what PG can do. He's a remarkable shooter with a lightning quick release; we know how the Knicks "handle" good shooters. George can score in a multitude of ways, and Carmelo is probably not going to be all that effective in getting PG out of rhythm to force some misses. Therefore, Lance Thomas is going to be a big piece in this defensive matchup, especially if he can start to round into form as a "scorer" (sidenote: Lance is now shooting 43% from 3 for the season, but only 38% from inside the arc. Expect a positive regression soon).
The Pacers also have Jeff Teague now, and Teague is pretty good, but he's also the definition of "meh" considering the current state of the point guard position. He's not a great shooter, and he requires the ball in his hands to be effective. Teague isn't a good defender, either, and he tends to be very, very inconsistent on a game-to-game basis; Teague is basically the Kyle O'Quinn of point guards. If the Pacers get good Jeff in this one, it's gonna be trouble. If they get bad Jeff, we're in business.
Myles Turner is the most recent young guy to be thrown on the "he's just as good as Porzingis but nobody is talking about it" hype train (last victim: Nikola Jokic). That's just not true, of course, but Turner does have an intriguging skillset that mirrors Porzingis' in certain ways. Turner is a knockdown midrange shooter off the catch, and he's also an uncanny shot blocker. He's tried to extend his range out to 3 (now shooting 37% from beyond the arc), but that number is pretty heavily inflated -- most of it came from one game where Turner shot like, 4 of 5 from 3 point land. On average, Turner is shooting only 1.5 attempts per game, which says more about his ability than his percentage; it's just not really his game at the moment. He's basically a finisher and an elite midrange sniper -- a good skillset, but not a gamechanging one. On defense, Turner is an obscene shot blocker, but he's still lacking a true grasp of defensive fundamentals. While Porzingis simultaneously blocks shots AND defends the rim at the best rate in the league, Turner is sorta just a shot blocker. But don't get it twisted -- you're probably gonna see some freakish stuff on that front. Turner is one of the fastest leapers I've ever seen in my life, and it catches dudes off guard all the time. I can basically guarantee at least one block that you didn't think was remotely possible based on his positioning and momentum. Also, Turner is a low-key bad rebounder, so look for the Knicks to generate a lot of opportunities on the glass. Maybe Joakim Noah will be almost useful tonight. Probably not.
Elsewhere, it's just...so boring. Thaddeus Young is a garbage man who mostly gets out in transition and cleans up the glass -- this should allow Porzingis to camp the paint more than usual, meaning a lot more blocks and shot contests at the rim. CJ Miles is the guy to watch out for off the bench with the way the Knicks defend the perimeter; I believe Miles leads the league in 3 point percentage on wide-open looks, so that could be a really big problem. Frankly, I don't know much of anything about Glenn Robinson III, who is starting in place of Monta Ellis (more on that in a bit) besides the fact that he's supposed to be a pretty good defender. Al Jefferson moves like an obese cave troll that learned post moves, and Willy might be in for a taste of his own medicine on the low block when he comes off the bench (related: bench units should be pushing the tempo extra hard and bringing Jefferson into a pick-and-roll literally every single possession, because Jefferson is SO bad at defense). Aaron Brooks is mostly terrible, but he can kinda get hot, which is always dangerous when your team can't play defense.
Two other things of note to touch on -- Kevin Seraphin makes his much-awaited return, and he may actually get somes minutes, because he may actually be more valuable than Al Jefferson! That means Seraphin is going to pull the chair out from either Kyle O'Quinn or Big Willy Style (seriously, the dude has to be leading the league in chair pulls over the past two seasons). Remember how Kevin had his best game of the season after the Paris shootings, playing like a freakish combination of Enes Kanter and 2012 Joakim Noah in the low post? Let's hope the Knicks didn't piss him off enough to spark one of THOSE games.
Finally, Monta Ellis will most likely be sitting this one out, which is actually a good thing for the Pacers. After some good injury luck early in the season, regression to the mean has now screwed over the Knicks a couple of times. Ellis is a disastrous fit with this Pacers team, and it showed early in the season. Monta needs the ball in his hands, he can't shoot, and he can't play defense (sounds a lot like Jeff Teague, right?). He's just not a very good player anymore, especially as a starter. Without him, their team fits together much more logically, and that is bad.
This is tough to predict with the way the Knicks have played their last three games. Derrick Rose should play, which will hopefully be a reminder that despite the inherent difficulty of defending the point guard position, almost anyone is better at it than Brandon Jennings. That will help a lot, as it's become abundantly clear that Jennings isn't a starting caliber player on either end of the floor at this point. Melo will have a tough time matched up with Paul George and Glenn Robinson.
On the other hand, Porzingis has a cushy matchup against Thaddeus Young, and the Pacers are at a severe disadvantage on the glass (they're a bottom 5 team in both defensive and offensive rebound percentage). They don't have enough defenders to bottle up Rose, Melo, and Porzingis, so there's going to be avenues to attack on offense. Finally, the Pacers will be on the second game of a back-to-back.
Unfortunately, none of that stuff matters if the Knicks come out and play like they have in the last three games.
Prediction: Knicks win, 111-108. Wishful thinking. In actuality...who knows.