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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Pacers- 01/04/22

Julius and Mitch are questionable against a familiar foe.

New York Knicks v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

After a middling four-game road trip, the New York Knicks (17-20) return home to host the Indiana Pacers (14-23) on Tuesday.

Indiana leads the season series 2-1 and won their last meeting, 122-102. In that gruesome game, the Pacers led by as many as 27 points, and the Knicks shot 9-for-30 from deep. The Pacers tallied 60 points in the paint to the Knicks’ 44. Indiana’s All-Star Domantas Sabonis collected 21 points and 11 rebounds. RJ Barrett managed 19 for New York.

The Pacers have dropped four straight games to tough opponents and lost the last two by only six. The Knicks, lacking multiple starters, were thoroughly outmatched in their last two games, both forgettable losses.

Cue the Myles Turner trade discussion. Tip-off’s at 7:30 PM. Optimists welcome.

PROJECTED STARTERS

With Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert out, rookie Duane Washington, Jr. should start for Indiana. The 6’3”, 210 lbs point guard has averaged 5.8 points and 0.8 assists in 14 minutes per game. He will likely start against Miles McBride, provided the young rook isn’t in coach Thibodeau’s dog house.

In the absence of Chris Duarte and Jeremy Lamb, rookie Keifer Sykes also gets to start. The 6’0”, 180 lbs shooting guard has averaged four points and 2.3 assists. He should be able to pad his stats tonight against the French matador, Evan Fournier.

Small forward Justin Holiday has averaged 12.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in his last five games. He’s a 3-and-D player who favors the spot-up shot and is making 40% from the floor, 35% from deep. In recent games, RJ Barrett has been called upon to do more without Kemba Walker (knee) and Julius Randle (health and safety protocols), to mixed results. Barrett has a slight physical edge over Holiday and should drive, drive, drive until he fixes his jumper.

Power forward Sabonis has averaged 18.4 points, 12 rebounds, and 4.4 assists this season. His 63% true shooting puts him in the 91 percentile, and he’s one of the league’s best rebounders. The 6’11” 240 lbs, 25-year old has a 121 offensive rating and a solid 107 defensive rating. Would you complain about having that kind of talent on your team?

Randle has been cleared from health and safety protocols, but is questionable for tonight’s tilt.

Expect Domantas to square off with Obi Toppin, making his third career start. In 45 minutes against the Raptors, Obi tied his career-high of 19 points. He should log big minutes again tonight.

Center Myles Turner has averaged 13.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. His 63% true shooting ranks him in the 90 percentile, too. Man…shouldn’t Sabonis and Turner be one of the league’s most lethal combos? More good Turner stuff: his rim defense is in the 85 percentile, and he’s shooting 37% from deep.

Here’s some more positive news for the Knicks:

Due to caution (conditioning), expect Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims to play limited minutes, if at all. The immortal Taj Gibson will likely jump against Turner. And will the Knicks ever make a jump for Turner? Time will tell, homies.

PREDICTIONS

If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass a-hoppin’.

Little about recent Knicks play has given any reason for confidence. If their shots start falling, and if Randle and Robinson are healthy enough to play, victory is possible. Otherwise, Sabonis and Turner will have their way in and out of the paint, even if their starting point guard is…what’s his name again?

Madison Square Garden. 7:30 PM. Go New York, go!