- J.R. Smith is in the building and on the active list, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be on the court for Game 3 later tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Smith, who missed the morning shootaround with a high fever, is a game-time decision. “He’s going to try to go,” said coach Mike Woodson. “He’s going to go out, run up and down a little bit and see how he feels. If he can go, he’s going to go.” Smith has struggled since a one-game suspension for elbowing Boston’s Jason Terry in the first-round playoff series, shooting 15-for-57 (.263), including 7-for-24 (.292) from the 3-point line. Against the Pacers, Smith has totaled 25 points on 7-for-30 shooting.
- If Smith does not play, Indiana coach Frank Vogel said he would be more inclined to use the offense-minded Gerald Green off the bench instead of defense-oriented Sam Young.
- Amar’e Stoudemire will be limited to 10-15 minutes in his first game since knee surgery on March 7. The veteran post player averaged 14.2 points in fewer than 24 minutes per game during the regular season and even if rusty will add needed depth to a thin Knicks frontcourt. “The stamina’s going to be the big thing,” Woodson said. “He’s going to be excited about being in uniform and normally excitement burns your energy so we’ve got to get him calmed down so he can give us some positive minutes.”
- While New York’s bench gets deeper with the additions of Stoudemire and Steve Novak, who missed most of three games dealing with back spasms, the Pacers will continue to ride their starters unusually hard largely because of an ineffective second unit. Indiana’s starters are averaging 37.7 minutes in the series and all have played more than New York’s leader, Carmelo Anthony.
- After committing 21 turnovers leading to 32 Knicks points in Game 2, the Pacers practiced without fouls being called in scrimmage situations in order to prepare for the aggression of the New York defense. “They scratch and claw and slap your wrist on every play and gamble and are in the passing lanes all night and double-teaming and trapping the post … that’s the style of defense they play,” Vogel. “We have to be better at handling it.”
- The Pacers’ chief advantage is its frontcourt size and depth, but post players David West and Roy Hibbert combined for just 14 shots against the Knicks’ double-teaming defense in Game 2. “We’ve just got to find a better way to get open and make more of an impact,” West said. “But we can’t force it. I think we’ll play into their hands if we’re forcing, trying to shoot the ball against two guys.”
- Vogel said he had no major strategic wrinkles for Game 3, that his team’s primary adjustment would be simply to execute better. “This is a pretty simple series in terms of adjustments,” he said. “They’re very confident in their style of play. We’re confident in our style of play. They got the best of us in Game 2. We have to do what we do better. That’s the biggest change.”
– Conrad Brunner