The Pacers try for the third win in a row and to inch closer to the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In front of a national audience (TNT – 8 PM EST), the Pacers have their first opportunity to show the NBA community that they’re for real, even without the services of Danny Granger.
“It’s another big test,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said at morning shootaround. “We talked about this week kind of being a test week, a barometer week for us playing against some of the best in the East. We stood up to the challenge Tuesday night and this is another big test.”
Wednesday, the NBA suspended Knicks star Carmelo Anthony for his actions following Monday’s loss to the Celtics. But Vogel believes they’re just as tough without him.
“They’re different, but they’re every bit as lethal. You’ve got to understand that them being first in the East is as much about Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and what they bring with their championship experience, as it is about Carmelo Anthony. He’s obviously the best scorer in the game right now…but we don’t view it as a weaker opponent in anyway.”
See Also: Pacers-Knicks Game Preview
Amar’e Stoudemire, who missed the Knicks’ first 30 games of the season with a knee injury, spoke highly of the Pacers and third-year wing Paul George.
“They’re playing well. The biggest key for me is rebounding. They’re doing a great job rebounding the ball, offensively as well, putting up second chance opportunities to score by keeping the ball alive.
“And Paul George is playing well. I was out with him in Shanghai this past summer and I noticed how athletic he was and how good of a player he could become. So I think that confidence is growing for him and as he continues to play well, so will his team.”
As Stoudemire pointed out, rebounding for both teams will be critical. The Pacers are No. 1 in the league in rebounding while the Knicks are 27th. With Anthony out, their second best rebounder, the Knicks know it will be on everyone to get it after it on the boards.
“We just have to make sure we move the ball and play unselfish tonight,” said center Tyson Chandler. “We’ve got to do a good job of continuing to attack the glass because they’re excellent rebounders. That’s the way they beat Miami.”
One question mark with regards to the Pacers tonight, is the status of starting point guard George Hill. The team has said he’s probable and Vogel said he’ll play but how effective will he be if he’s out there? He didn’t practice Wednesday or participate in shootaround and was dragging as he walked off the court. He just didn’t look himself.
“He’s gonna play,” Vogel said. “He’s recovering from the flu. He is still a little bit weak but we’ll just have to keep an eye on his energy level but he is gonna go.”
Hall of Famer Reggie Miller will be on tonight’s TNT broadcast, along with Marv Albert and Craig Sager.