canada africa partner reservation New York Knicks Make Bold Predictions for 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Pacers

New York Knicks Make Bold Predictions for 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Pacers

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Let’s be honest for a moment (this should not be taken as an overly bold prediction). The New York Knicks should get through the Indiana Pacers with ease compared to what they just experienced against the Philadelphia 76ers in their first round playoff series. The Knicks won 50 games in the regular season and secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference despite significant injuries to a number of starters. Still, it’s the NBA playoffs and anything can happen, so let’s make some bold Knicks predictions for the 2024 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pacers.

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Recent history between the Knicks and Pacers

The Knicks and Pacers almost played against each other at full strength this season. Almost.

They played three times, with the Pacers winning two of the three games. Their first game on December 30 was played without OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa, as well as RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, as it took place just before all the players involved in the trade joined their new teams. So instead of being the first test for a redesigned Knicks team, New York lost to the Pacers 140-126 with a depleted roster.

They also played on February 1st just five days after Anunoby and Julius Randle went down with respective injuries. By the way, the Knicks won that particular game, but it did nothing to prepare Indiana for the current version of the Knicks team.

The last game between New York and Indiana on February 10 was near the beginning of a dark period for the Knicks, where they were not only without Randle and Anunoby, but Isaiah Hartenstein and Jalen Brunson also missed time.

So let’s make some bold predictions about why New York should have a relatively easy path to its first conference finals in more than two decades.

OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson will stumble the Pacers offense

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) reacts on his three-pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half of game six of the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to be said about Anunoby and how he has impacted the Knicks. They’re downright better after adding him. Including the playoffs, New York is 24-5 since the addition of Anunoby. And Anunoby was +353 through 23 regular season games. He has shown incredible defensive versatility since joining the Knicks; however, he showed a new level of offensive aggression in the first round with the 76ers.

Indiana really doesn’t know what they plan to do with Anunoby. But there’s still someone missing from each of the Knicks-Pacers matchups who could have about as much impact on the game: Mitchell Robinson.

Robinson was playing at a borderline All-Star level before injuring his ankle in December. He led the league in offensive rebounds (by a lot), putting up 6.2 points and a career-high of 10.3 total rebounds per game. He then missed three and a half months due to ankle surgery.

Since his return, and especially in the team’s first-round series against the 76ers, Robinson has looked like an absolute monster. Despite only playing about 20 minutes per game and missing an entire game due to a separate ankle injury, Robinson was tied (with Josh Hart) for the NBA lead in offensive rebounds through the first round, grabbing 22 in total. He also collected seven blocks.

There are also the intangible assets. Such as his willingness to accept a backup role when he was previously the team’s starter. And his willingness to do the dirty work, like fighting on the floor for rebounds and blasting the bigger Joel Embiid. Despite recently returning from a fairly lengthy absence, Robinson was actually more successful than any other Knick at slowing down Embiid.

To be fair, Indiana played at the second-fastest pace in the NBA this season, while New York played at the slowest pace in the league. So it would have been difficult for the Knicks to keep up even if they were completely healthy. But they aren’t. And losing Bojan Bogdanovic to an ankle injury that required surgery in the first round hurts even more, as the Knicks currently have a seven-man rotation.

Still, the Pacers will struggle to score against the Knicks’ stout defense. This one will end up being a lot like the Knicks-76ers matchup, at least in terms of scoring. New York will hold the Pacers below their scoring average, and that will determine a large part of their success.

Knicks rebounders generate second-chance points and lead to wins

The Knicks’ rebounding ability is nothing new. But examining the team’s recovery in the playoffs over just one round is tricky, as the results are highly dependent on your opponent. But looking at the results of an 82-game season is certainly statistically significant. And this is an area where the Knicks have a major advantage. New York was the fifth-best rebounding team this season, while Indiana was 28th.

Additionally, New York also led the league in offensive rebounds this season. And that trend was highlighted again and again in their first-round playoff series. In other words, the Pacers will have to work diligently to prevent New York from generating second (and third) possessions and dominating via second-chance buckets.

But keeping any team out is easier said than done, especially when dealing with dawgs like Josh Hart, Hartenstein and Robinson. The Knicks shall win the restorative battle against Indiana. And as we know, the team that won the rebound battle in each of the Knicks’ first-round games emerged victorious.

Ultimately, the Knicks are just a little too deep and physical. They rebound the ball and defend too well for Indiana to realistically win four of seven games, but the Knicks need to slow the pace of the game. The addition of Pascal Siakam was an interesting move at the 2024 trade deadline. But the Knicks are just a bit too much for the Pacers. Knicks in six.