Monday, March 4, 2024

NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers (29-24) at New York Knicks (33-19)

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has employed a football philosophy — “Next man up” — to deal with the New York Knicks’ spate of injuries.

But to borrow an adage from another sport, the Knicks are running out of players they can send to the on-deck circle.

The Knicks will welcome their trade-deadline additions and hope that some of their banged-up players return Saturday night, when they host the Indiana Pacers in a battle of Eastern Conference contenders.

Both teams were off Friday after falling at home Thursday, when the undermanned Knicks lost to the Dallas Mavericks 122-108 and the Pacers were routed by the Golden State Warriors 131-109.

The Knicks added to their rotation hours before Thursday’s game, but the price for Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks — whom they acquired from the Detroit Pistons for Ryan Arcidiacono, Malachi Flynn, Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes as well as two second-round draft picks — thinned out an injury-plagued roster. All-Star Julius Randle (separated shoulder), center Mitchell Robinson (ankle surgery) and defensive stopper OG Anunoby (elbow surgery) are all out indefinitely.

The rotation grew even thinner later Thursday when the Knicks scratched All-Star point guard Jalen Brunson (sprained right ankle) and reserve Jericho Sims (illness). New York ended the game with just seven healthy players after Isaiah Hartenstein aggravated his left Achilles injury in the second quarter.

The Knicks trailed wire-to-wire Thursday, when they cut a 20-point deficit to eight points in the fourth before losing for the second time in three games following a nine-game winning streak. New York entered Friday tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for third in the Eastern Conference at 33-19 and five games ahead of the seventh-place Miami Heat.

The Pacers, who entered Friday in sixth place in the East and a half-game ahead of the Heat and Orlando Magic in the race for the final guaranteed playoff spot, were also short-handed after a flurry of deadline activity Thursday. They never led against the Warriors, who led by as many as 13 in the first quarter and maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the second half.

Indiana’s three-way trade with the Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs netted the Pacers forward Doug McDermott, guard Furkan Korkmaz and a pair of second-round draft picks in exchange for guard Buddy Hield.

McDermott is shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range, albeit in 15.2 minutes per game, the latter of which is his lowest figure since his rookie season in 2014-15. Hield was averaging 12 points per game, his fewest since he was a rookie in 2016-17, while shooting 38.4 percent from beyond the arc.

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