With the Miami Heat going on a 27-game winning streak that was ended last week by the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers are battling for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The difference between the two and the three seed, if both teams advance in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, which begin on Saturday, April 20, 2013, will be where the series starts, and, more importantly, where it ends if there is a decisive game seven.
If you look at the schedule, the Pacers certainly have the easier one. Of their remaining seven games, four are against playoff teams, including back-to-back games against the Brooklyn Nets in the Hoosier state and at Madison Square Garden versus the Knicks. New York has two tough road games against playoff teams this week, versus Miami and Atlanta, and two next week, versus Oklahoma City and Chicago. With three of those four teams still battling for playoff positioning, the Knicks can expect maximum effort.
Both the Pacers and the Knicks have played well without key components. The Pacers are missing former All-Star Danny Granger, who only played five games this season, and will miss the rest of the season and undergo knee surgery.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have lost former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire until at least the playoffs, and have played 10 straight games without All-Star Center Tyson Chandler. Both Indiana head coach Frank Vogel and New York coach Mike Woodson deserve a great deal of credit for being able to keep their teams pushing ahead despite major injuries.
The New York Knicks have regained their winning ways, and are on an eight-game winning streak as of press time, and will have to keep that up if they want to secure the two seed in the conference. The Pacers, winners themselves of five straight, including a huge road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, don’t appear to be slowing down. It may come down to their matchup at the World’s Most Famous Arena next Sunday, which will be a national game on ABC that Knicks and Pacers fans alike will watch closely.