The final week of the regular season is upon us. Tom Thibodeau had said that he wouldn’t rest his players until they had secured the fifth seed, and with the Nets’ loss last night, they did. Nevertheless, given Thibs’ maniacal ways, you can still expect a competitive game when the New York Knicks (46-33) face the Indiana Pacers (34-45) at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse tonight.
New York holds the fifth seed of the Eastern Conference, while Indiana stands outside the glass, gazing longingly in at the Playoff picture. The Pacers live up to their name, being the seventh-fastest team in the league, but their offensive is poor (21st of 30), and their defense is worse (26th).
This is the first of two meetings between these clubs this week (they’ll face Indy in their final regular season game on Sunday). New York leads the season series 2-0 and won their last matchup 119-113 in January. Over the last five games, the Knicks have won four games while the Hoosiers have won one.
It’s a gimmie game, if the Knicks feel like playing! Tip-off’s at 7:00 p.m. EST.
When not walking on water, Jalen Brunson is busy making a case for being named the league’s Most Improved Player. He should continue his bullying ways tonight against rookie Andrew Nembhard. Nembhard will start at lead guard for Indiana with Tyrese Haliburton out and has put up 9.3 points and 4.3 assists in about 27 minutes per game.
Quentin Grimes has averaged 20.6 points, 5.4 boards, and 4.6 dimes in his last five games. That’s while shooting 48% from behind the arc on 9.6 attempts per game. Move over Johnny Storm, there’s a new flamethrower in town. He’ll face rookie Bennedict Mathurin, who’s averaging 16 points this season. The young, 6’6”, 210 lb wing is capable of filling the stat sheet, hitting a career-high 32 points against the Nets last October.
RJ Barrett is available again after missing the last game due to illness. Dunno what he had, but I had a touch of the norovirus recently, and yowza! Blast off! Would I write a preview from the loo? You betcha. That’s not nearly as tough as driving the lane or playing passable defense. Speaking of, let’s see if RJ does that tonight against Jordan Nwora. (Weirdly, Nwora, who averages 8.5 points per, has started over Buddy Hield.)
Obi Toppin finally balled out, scoring 21 points versus the Wizards on Sunday. He shot 60% from the field and 38% (3-of-8) from deep. Plus four assists, two steals, and a block while finishing with a net of +19. No free throws attempts, though. . . . Let’s see if he can draw any fouls from Aaron Nesmith this evening.
Poor sophomore Isaiah Jackson has averaged 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 points, and 0.7 blocks in three games against Mitchell Robinson. Big Mitch should feast tonight.
Due to the parity in the league, even the lowliest of NBA teams are capable of upsetting a highly-seeded opponent. These Pacers are no exception. Thibodeau’s Knicks are a relentless bunch, however, and they won’t quit now, with the golden gates of the Playoffs in sight. Knicks by 25.
Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Indiana, IN. Wednesday. 7:00 p.m. Go Knicks.