Knicks now meet a big, physical team in Pacers

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks battles for position

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks battles for position against Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. (April 14, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks didn't have much time to celebrate their first playoff series win in 13 years. They were back at practice Saturday, preparing for what should be an even tougher, more physical matchup in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Pacers present different challenges for the Knicks than Boston did. They're bigger, more physical and play a style that is more like basketball in the 1990s. These Knicks hope to have the same type of success they had back then against Indiana.

"As a team, we're hungry," Carmelo Anthony said Saturday. "I'm starving. We want to get past this."

The Knicks and Pacers had some memorable playoff matchups from 1993-2000. Both times the Knicks reached the Finals (1994, 1999) in that span, they had to go through Reggie Miller and the Pacers.

Anthony is thinking bigger than just going through Indiana, though. He wants to do what Patrick Ewing never did with the Knicks -- win an NBA championship.

But Anthony, who said his sore left shoulder feels better, had to get the Knicks to this point first.

It's only the second time in 10 seasons that Anthony has gotten out of the first round. He called it "a big relief" after the Knicks closed out the Celtics in Game 6, but that's in his rear-view mirror now.

"As far as my mind-set goes, I haven't done anything yet," Anthony said. "We haven't done anything yet."

But Tyson Chandler said playing the Celtics in the first round was good for the Knicks because it prepared them for what they'll face as the playoffs continue.

The seventh-seeded Celtics had their flaws, but they kept battling the second-seeded Knicks. Boston came back from 3-0 down to force a sixth game, then cut a 26-point fourth-quarter deficit to four Friday night in their 88-80 loss.

The third-seeded Pacers don't score a lot, but they don't give up a lot of points, either. They use their size, play with force and control games with their defense. Indiana is the best rebounding team in the league.

The four regular-season meetings between the Knicks and Pacers were physical games won by the home team each time.

In one game, they totaled nine technical fouls and two flagrant fouls and J.R. Smith was ejected after getting into it with Brooklyn's Lance Stephenson. Anthony also hurt his left shoulder last month on a hard foul by Indiana's David West, who likely will continue to play him physically.

The Knicks scored more than 90 points only once in the four games and were outrebounded by 24.

"We know we're going to be in for a battle," Chandler said. "We've got to be prepared physically to match their play, keep them off the glass, limit them to one shot and then run."

Indiana starts the 6-9 West, 6-9 Paul George and 7-2 Roy Hibbert up front and brings other bangers off the bench, including Tyler Hansbrough. Mike Woodson said he will start the same three-guard lineup that has been successful. But he might play bigger at times with Chandler and Kenyon Martin together.

"It could play out that way based on their size," Woodson said. "But we got to stick to what's been good for us, too. If it's not working, then I got to make the adjustments. We have enough bigs to do that. I feel great about our bigs. And we have enough perimeters to play the way we want to play from a perimeter standpoint. Only time will tell."

Amar'e Stoudemire could play at some point in the series, giving the Knicks another big body. Woodson has ruled him out for Games 1 and 2 but said Game 3 is a possibility.

One good sign for the Knicks is that Chandler moved better in the last few games than he had since hurting his neck in Denver in March. He averaged 11.3 rebounds in the last three games against Boston.

"Physically, I'm a lot better," Chandler said. "I felt a lot better the last two games and it's going to continue in this series."

"We're going to need Tyson to continue to grow," Woodson said. "When you're dealing with Hibbert and West and Hansbrough, all the big guys that they do have, our bigs have to be ready to meet the challenge."

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