After two encouraging games, the New York Knicks (12-12) clanged like a discordant player piano versus the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. They were nearly run out of the tri-state area by pitchfork-wielding fans in Bing Bong t-shirts. In San Antonio on Tuesday night, however, they beat the Spurs in a complete game of inspired ball, 121-109. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
The Indiana Pacers (10-16) have been an enigma of their own. The roster has talent (Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, etc.) but has been inconsistent under new coach Rick Carlisle. The Hoosiers beat the Bulls by 32…but recently had a four-game losing streak…but are 1-9 in games decided by four points or less. A few shots here, a few missed shots there, and their record could equal that of the Knicks.
On Wednesday, Indiana will host New York at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in their third of four meetings this season. The series is tied, 1-1. Will the Knickerbockers take the Pacers seriously? Who will they be this time?
Let’s find out. Tip-off’s at 7 PM, fellow Tralfamadorians.
My favorite Indianer might be Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I don’t love everything he wrote, but much of his best stuff (starting with Cat’s Cradle) was stitched into my adolescent soul at the same time that the Knicks got a square in my quilt. Decades later, I still love them both. That doesn’t mean I won’t yawn at Vonnegut’s lesser work or curse the TV when the Knicks play like a group of men who are reassessing their life choices.
As for Indiana, they’re not a bad team, just highly mediocre. Reports indicate that they are ready to detonate the roster:
The Pacers are potentially moving toward a substantial rebuild, sources tell @ShamsCharania.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) December 7, 2021
Indiana is open to trade conversations around veteran stalwarts Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
More: https://t.co/dQ0rklHx1T pic.twitter.com/1JBeZSKMGX
Center Myles Turner is a good defender who firebombed New York with a career-high seven threes in a game last month. He is averaging 12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks on 52.6% FG and 39.5% 3P. His 65% True Shooting is good for the 93 percentile.
Any coincidence that Indiana’s blow-up news breaks right before the Knicks and Pacers play? Some pundits have mocked trades that would swap their pick-and-pop big for Mitchell Robinson. Qs for the comments: Would you pull that trigger? What would be the package details?
Rookie SF Chris Duarte has averaged 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and two assists this season. He’s shooting 42% from the field and 35% from three. The 24-year old is third on the team in minutes per game, behind only Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis. He’ll square off against RJ Barrett, who had a beautiful bounce-back game (including a career-high seven three-pointers) against the Spurs and can prove tonight that his rejuvenation is no fluke.
Sabonis is a versatile big, averaging 17.8 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. His 63% TS is good for the 88 percentile. Arguably their best player, Sabonis had weirdly become an afterthought in Carlisle’s offense but was featured in a recent win over the Wizards. Tricky Ricky would be smart to stick with him going forward, especially against Julius Randle. Match-ups between these two southpaw All-Stars are usually fun to watch. Let’s hope Julius eats his Wheaties.
Point guard Brogdon has averaged 20.5 points, 6.2 assists, and 5.8 rebounds. The skillful but injury-prone playmaker is shooting 45% from the field, yet only 31% from three (making 1.9 of six attempts). In games against Alec Burks and Derrick Rose, Uncle Malcolm’s numbers are lower than average. The advantage should go to the Knicks.
G Caris LeVert has averaged 14.9 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.7 rebounds. He is ice-nine from deep and shooting a frigid 25%. LeVert found his way to 17 and 21 points in their previous meetings, though. Evan Fournier, in need of a good game, will try to contain him.
The Slaughterhouse-Five would be a fantastic name for a G-League team. As for how the Knicks will do against the Pacers...it’s a tough call. If Turner doesn’t do his Deadeye Dick impression, New York’s big men don’t plod around like turtles from the Galapagos Islands, and the Knicks’ shooters are entranced by the net as though seduced by the Sirens of Titan, then it’s a win. If not, at least I smuggled a bunch of Vonnegut stuff into a preview.
Indiana. Wednesday, December 8, 2021. 7 PM. God bless you, Knickerbockers.
BONUS: Professor Kurt teaches you how to construct a story: