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Game Preview: Knicks vs Pacers, 2/27/2021

Run ‘em!

New York Knicks v Indiana Pacers Photo by Brian Spurlock/NBAE via Getty Images

Just when I thought I was out. The Pacers are coming to the Garden to disrupt our good vibes. I guess it’s possible they’ll play dog shit defense like the Kings did, but I’d say that seems unlikely. We’ll always have Frank Ntilikina’s 23.5 minutes of inspiration from Thursday, February 25th, 2021.

Thibs has said he has no intention to expand the rotation (to include Frank). So, if Elfrid Payton remains shelved, it’s now or never for Frank to roll into town under the cover of night and rob the bank.

1999 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3: Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Projected Starters

No matter what happens with Ntilikina. The inclusion of Derrick Rose with the starters brought a more dynamic and decisive driver to that unit. One of the reasons Payton is in the starting unit is absolutely his ability to get through traffic and put up shots at the rim. Elfrid shoots 43% of all his field goal attempts in the restricted area, with an additional 23% of his attempts coming inside the paint. That’s two-thirds of his shots, nothing to sneeze at. He can clearly get there.

Derrick Rose v Malcolm Brogdon

Reggie Bullock v Justin Holiday

RJ Barrett v Doug McDermott

Julius Randle v Domantas Sabonis

Nerlens Noel v Myles Turner

The visible difference is that Rose has a more raging head of steam attacking the rim and that seems to dislodge help defenders a little more than Elfrid’s rubber mallet technique.

1999 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3: Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Keys & Predictions

While the lunatic fringe (me) will focus their energy on Frank Ntilikina, the obvious story is the battle of All Star power forwards Julius Randle and Domantas Sabonis, a pair of lefty power forwards that jostle and punish everyone in their wake. The difference to my eyes is on the defensive side of the ball where Domas can be attacked by quick footed guards while Julius’ foot speed keeps him engaged and on top of drivers. Maybe the Randle/Rose pick and roll could provide a lot of the answers for the Pacers 12th ranked defense, (according to the NBA’s defensive rating).

Of late, the Knicks have maybe looked like an actual good team. Where is the regression to the mean that the analysts told me to expect? Is this just... the new norm?

Knicks by -31

New York Knicks guard John Starks (R) commits a fo Photo credit should read JOHN RUTHROFF/AFP via Getty Images

Parting Shot

The Knicks have Immanuel Quickley shooting .938 from the line. Derrick Rose is at .895 in his second stint with New York. Frank Ntilikina is only 1 of 3 this year but shot .864 last season. Elfrid Payton is near a career best .735 % at the stripe despite being a career .632% shooter. Freebies are incredibly important.

Here’s some flashing news for you: three-pointers also play a major role in an effective offense these days. In an extremely small sample this year Ntilikina is shooting 50% on 12 shots in his mere 66 minutes. Rose .438 from deep in his 8 games so far. Quick is .371 on 132 attempts in 548 minutes. Payton is 14 of 58 in his 896 minutes. Good for an anemic .241 percentage.

Threes and free throws are critical. Gotta hit them. Gotta be able to hit them. You know exactly what this is.

New York Knicks’ Larry Johnson sinks a 3-pointer to tie the Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images