Indiana will get its starting point guard back. George Hill has been cleared to play, will start and play his normal share of minutes for the Pacers in Game 6 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Hill missed Game 5 with a concussion but passed the NBA-mandated tests the past two days and remained symptom-free after workouts earlier today. “We did it by the book,” said coach Frank Vogel. “He’s a big part of what we do, so having him in there will impact the game on both ends of the court.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson seemed unmoved by the news of Hill’s return. “It won’t change anything for us,” he said. “ At this point it doesn’t matter who plays. It’s all about what we do.”
The Knicks will stick with the lineup that won Game 5: Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
Rebounding will be critical for the Knicks. In three losses in the series, New York was beaten 151-107 on the boards. In two victories it was virtually dead-even, with Indiana holding a one-rebound advantage. Woodson said it’s imperative his perimeter players get involved with long rebounds and loose balls. “To me, that’s been the difference in the series,” he said, “those hustle plays giving them second chances to score the basketball.”
New York is 0-4 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season, averaging 80 points, 34.8 percent shooting overall and 23 percent from the 3-point line. Anthony, who missed one of the games, has averaged 20 points on 36.7 percent shooting, while J.R. Smith has averaged 14.5 points on 31.4 percent shooting.
There is no definitive word from the Warriors about center Andrew Bogut, who appeared to be laboring physically during Game 5 and recorded a series-low 20 minutes, although coach Mark Jackson said he thinks the 7-footer will play. Bogut, who is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game this postseason — fourth best in the league — went through the club’s morning shootaround “and looked decent. . . . I expect him on the floor.”
Jackson answered an early question in part by using the phrase “when we win tonight,” which led to the natural follow-up: Are you guaranteeing victory? “I’m not Patrick Ewing,” Jackson said, referencing Ewing’s failed prognostication regarding Game 6 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals, when Jackson’s Pacers beat Ewing’s Knicks to advance to the NBA Finals.
These teams have used the same starting lineups for two games running, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said there aren’t any secret tactical moves hidden in either side’s sleeves. “They’re exaggerated,” Popovich said of potential changes. “Everybody talks about adjustments, but it’s pretty much in the hands of the players at this point. Making shots and players playing well is pretty much what the playoffs are about.”
Popovich swatted away a question about facing urgency to close out the Warriors with Memphis resting up in wait as a potential Western Conference finals foe. But Jackson did his best to put the pressure on the Spurs to close things out at the sure-to-be-raucous Oracle Arena. “If you’re in this situation, you want it out, just because anything can happen in Game 7,” Jackson said. “I’ve been there. Anything can happen. And when I say anything, I do mean anything. A guy gets hot. A guy gets in foul trouble. A guy gets hurt. A guy has an off night. A guy gets sick. Anything can happen, and it’s up to us to force that situation.”
Veteran referee Joe Crawford is scheduled to work tonight’s game, alongside Sean Corbin and Derrick Stafford. It will be the first time Crawford and past nemesis Tim Duncan cross paths this postseason.
Pacers point guard George Hill is out with a concussion after taking a shot from Tyson Chandler in Game 4. Pacers coach Frank Vogel called him “day-to-day” for a possible Game 6. “He’s gotta pass the NBA protocol concussion test,” Vogel said. D.J. Augustin will “play most of the minutes” while Lance Stephenson and Ben Hansbrough could also play some point. Vogel also said he could play Augustin and Hansbrough together. Hill has outscored the Knicks’ starting backcourt, 69-62, in the series, including 26 points of 9-for-14 shooting in Game 4. The Pacers are 3-2 this season without Hill. ”He was really good in Game 4,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “I can’t worry about that…They’re still a really good basketball team with or without George.”
Woodson will return to his “small” lineup of Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Chandler. In Game 4, Woodson started Kenyon Martin at power forward and only played Prigioni three minutes. After that resulted in a 93-82 loss, he opted to revert back to the small lineup. Woodson also said he planned to Chris Copeland more off the bench. “That’s been good for us pretty much all season, so I’m going back to it,” Woodson said of the small lineup. “We didn’t win, so I’m going back the other way.”
Rihanna said on Instagram that J.R. Smith was struggling in the series because he’s hungover from partying. Woodson said he only “got wind” of the story today. Asked if Smith was a distraction, Woodson said: “That’s the unknown. Sometimes things get away from you. J.R.’s had his ups and downs of late but I still believe in J.R. and his teammates believe in him. We’re expecting a big game from him.” Asked if he was following the Rihanna story, Woodson said, “I don’t follow that. Seriously, you guys follow that. I don’t follow that. It has no bearing on this game tonight. He’s gotta come out and play.”
Only eight NBA teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit, and the Knicks are 0-12 in such situations. “You have to play with desperation no matter what the situation is, so I expect our guys to play that way tonight,” Vogel said.
The reigning NBA champion Miami Heat await the winner of this series.
The Grizzlies have won seven of their last eight playoff games. After falling behind 0-2 to the Clippers, Memphis won four straight and now after losing the first game of the Western Conference semi-finals to the Thunder the Grizzlies have won three straight. Oklahoma City hasn’t lost four straight games since The Finals last season against Miami.
Despite his team’s bleak situation Thunder star Kevin Durant says his teammates were upbeat at shootaround, “it was good, I mean it wasn’t like we were goin to a funeral so that’s better. We’ve always been a resilient team and we’re gonna continue to keep fightin.” Durant has been asked to do more in the absence of injured point guard Russell Westbrook and he was disappointed in his 0-for-5 performance in the overtime period of Game Three, “everybody came through except for me and that’s the toughest thing about it. I just have to find a way to get it done, no matter how many people are guardin me there’s no excuses, I’ve just gotta get it done.”
The Memphis defense has really tightened up lately on Durant late in games. In the fourth quarter and an overtime period over the last two games Durant is averaging 3.5 points on 17.6 percent shooting (3-for-17). In Game One (OKC’s lone win) Durant scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting (66.7 percent).
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said his message to the team before the game was, “all we have to do is worry about winning one game. It’s not hoping for a miracle, we just have to win this game at home. We’re down but we’re not out.”
Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins told his team, “just go play, go play hard, do what we’ve been doing. There’s no reason to do anything different.”
Heat guard Dwyane Wade (knee) will start. The bone bruise on his right knee has given him trouble throughout the postseason but Wade was able to complete the morning shootaround. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade will play extensive minutes.
The Bulls, who trail the series 3-1, will likely once again be without Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. Hinrich is listed as doubtful as he continues to recover from a severely bruised calf. Deng (illness) did not travel with the team. Neither has played in the series.
Since scoring 27 points in Game 1, Bulls guard Nate Robinson has just 28 points in the following three games. Robinson is coming off an 0 for 12 shooting performance Monday in Chicago.
Stephen Curry came to Warriors shootaround today at AT&T Center and said he’s ready for tonight’s Game 5. “Ready to go,” Curry said, telling reporters his left ankle sprain is feeling better than it did prior to Game 4 on Sunday. “That’s all I can ask for.” He did not appear to limp during a pre-game shooting session about an hour and 45 minutes prior to tipoff.
Tony Parker said he still has a knot in his left calf bruise from Game 4 and he came early before today’s shootaround to receive treatment. “I felt like, especially in the fourth quarter, I missed some easy (shots),” Parker said. “They were short a little bit. They didn’t have the same lift.” Parker went 6-for-17 in Game 4 and had little to offer when the Spurs scored three points in overtime. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said it appears Parker is moving better today.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he will start Carl Landry at forward for the second-straight game after bringing him off the bench for Games 1 and 2. “I like what he gives us on the offensive end,” Jackson said. “He’s a big that can knock down that mid-range jumper and can post up. He’s been battling. He’s a veteran, experienced, and he continues to put pressure on the defense.”
David Lee could get more playing time tonight for the Warriors, though it won’t be markedly more than the nearly eight minutes he got in Game 4 when he missed a pair of shots yet got five rebounds and had a steal. “It depends on how we’re doing and the opportunities to use him,” Jackson said. “Hopefully it progresses, but (the amount of minutes) won’t be anything crazy. I think every time I went to him he’s given us great minutes. He’s given us a boost, much needed.”
Following the lead of Atlanta’s Larry Drew, who switched to a big lineup that helped produce victories in Games 3 and 4 of the first-round series against the Pacers, New York coach Mike Woodson will start Kenyon Martin at power forward next to center Tyson Chandler tonight. It will be the first time this season the lineup of Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Martin and Chandler have started together. The move sends Pablo Prigioni to the bench and could mean a more prominent role for Amar’e Stoudemire, who becomes the Knicks’ primary reserve big man.
J.R. Smith and Martin both missed practice Monday with illnesses but participated in the morning shootaround and are “a lot better than they were the last few days,” Woodson said. Shumpert also missed practice time with swelling in his left knee, the result of a fall in Game 3, but an MRI showed no structural damage and he was cleared to play.
The Pacers expect the Knicks to put Anthony in more high pick-and-roll situations with the intent of freeing him from the defense of Paul George. Indiana’s response? “We have a thing, ‘don’t get screened’,” Coach Frank Vogel said, explaining the goal is to “be in position to catch up quickly.” George said he would have to focus on fighting through screens to prevent awkward switch situations for center Roy Hibbert.
Indiana is in the same situation as last year, leading 2-1 in the East semis with the chance to assume control of the series in Game 4 at home. Last year, they lost the game and ultimately the series to Miami. “Our next step in growth for this franchise,” Vogel said, “is our ability to maintain an edge after a playoff win.”
After attempting 33 3-pointers in Game 3, the Pacers have more attempts (81-60) and makes (26-20) from the arc than the Knicks, the most prolific 3-point attack in NBA history during the regular season. It’s out of character for Indiana, which prefers to focus its offense on the low post, but the Pacers won’t hesitate to keep taking the shots made available by the Knicks’ double-teaming defense. “We’ve got guys who can knock down shots,” said David West, “so there’s more hell to pay if you don’t take that shot than if you take it and miss it.”
To Vogel, the only adjustment that matters tonight is making sure his team responds to what is bound to be a much more aggressive New York team. “The opponent is going to change their desperation and they probably are going to change their gameplan,” he said. “So you expect the unexpected and understand the fire you brought to your previous victory, you’ve got to bring an even greater fire to the next game.”
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