TV: League Pass
- Danny Granger’s comeback will have to wait at least one more game. After practicing with the team Monday night and Tuesday, Granger did not feel ready to make his regular season debut. “Not tonight, still day-to-day,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to practice tomorrow and see.” The Pacers originally hoped Granger would return for two or three games before the All-Star break. Is the lingering uncertainty about his return beginning to cause a distraction? “I don’t think so,” Vogel said. “If it were to go another month, yeah, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think we’re going to see him very soon.” Granger has been out with patellar tendinosis, a chronic condition much more serious than tendinitis.
- At 32-21, the Pacers lead the Central Division at the break for the first time since 2003-04. At 32-18, the Knicks have their best record at the break since 1996-97. With both teams back as contenders, will their fabled rivalry re-ignite? “I hope so,” Vogel said. “Look, they’re right up there on the list of teams that can win it all. They’ve got the talent, they’ve got the weapons, they’ve got the teamwork, they’ve got a great coach and hopefully we’re falling into that conversation, as well. Any time you’ve got teams that are mentioned as contenders then I think there’s going to be a rivalry there.”
- Neither team expects to make a move before tomorrow’s trade deadline. Vogel began his pregame press briefing by joking that a press release was coming announcing a total overhaul of the roster in exchange for first-round picks “for the future.” He then said he thought the Pacers would stand pat. “I think,” he said for emphasis. “You never know.”
- Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he wasn’t ready to make any changes to the lineup or rotation, meaning both J.R. Smith and Amare Stoudemire will continue to come off the bench. “That could always change as you go down the road but as we stand here today, we’re not playing too badly with the lineup that’s been starting,” he said. “We’re 8-5 in our last 13 with that group. I’d like to improve on it so we’ll see how we fare with the lineup that I’m going to start tonight and if there needs to be any changes as we move up the road, we’ve got enough bodies that we can make that change.”
- This game carries added importance for both teams. The season series is tied 1-1 and if the Pacers are to catch the Knicks, they need to protect their home court. New York, on the other hand, can gain the upper-hand against Indiana with a victory.
- Carmelo Anthony did not play the last time these teams met, an 81-76 Indiana victory on Jan. 10, because he was serving a one-game suspension. On his last visit to Indianapolis last season, he racked up 39 points. Woodson said he expects the Pacers to mix up their defensive looks against Anthony, while Vogel said he intends to leave Paul George on the Knicks’ top scorer as much as possible.
- Conrad Brunner