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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Knicks in need of long NBA playoff series break

Knicks center Tyson Chandler watches from the bench

Knicks center Tyson Chandler watches from the bench during the fourth quarter. (Feb. 20, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

The three-day chasm in the Knicks-Pacers series is an affront to common sense, common decency and the common good for sports fans who prefer their postseasons with coherent dramatic and competitive flow.

It's a classic example of a joke perpetrated on NBA fans for a very long time now. No major North American sports league twists itself into more convoluted scheduling pretzels to suit the priorities of its television partners.


Now that we have gotten that off our chests . . . this can and should be a break for the Knicks, in which case their fans happily will sign off on a long wait for Game 3 on Saturday and another before Game 4 next Tuesday.

The Pacers are young and healthy, the Knicks less so. Combine that with the fact the Knicks have been busy since needing more time than they should have to oust the Celtics, and the conference semifinals schedule is a godsend.

"The more rest, the better," Carmelo Anthony said in an interview with TNT after Tuesday's 105-79 victory in Game 2. "At this point [in the playoffs] it is hard to get some rest. I need these next couple of days, I'll tell you that."

Said Tyson Chandler: "I think these days are going to be great for us . . . It's going to be great for myself. I will be able to get a couple of lifts in and get some more conditioning and get my timing back. Melo will be able to get in the gym and J.R. and our [entire] team.

"We need to get at it a little bit, watch some film but also compete a little bit the next couple of days so we go into Game 3 with the right mindset."

Everyone should benefit from the respite -- aside perhaps from Iman Shumpert, who seems only to get sprier by the day -- but especially key players nursing injuries, notably Anthony (shoulder) and Raymond Felton (ankle).

Then there is Amar'e Stoudemire, about whom you will hear and read a great deal between now and Saturday.

After more than two months out of action, the forward with wounded knees could return for Game 3, pending how he comes out of three-on-three work Wednesday and a full-team practice tentatively scheduled for Friday.

"If he doesn't have any setbacks, we'll probably dress him on Saturday," coach Mike Woodson said.

That might not have been possible if the Knicks were on a more rational, every-other-day playing schedule.

"Obviously, we need Amar'e to get his timing," Chandler said, "and the only way he can do that is if he's out there with us practicing. He played some three-on-three the other day but he needs to get in five-on-five."

If Stoudemire is well enough to play, Woodson faces a coaching challenge figuring out what to do with him. He has proved to be an awkward fit with Anthony, and his return could alter the team's on-court chemistry.

On the other hand, the Knicks could use a skilled big man against the hulking Pacers, even if for only 10 minutes a night. Woodson has characterized questions about Stoudemire fitting in as a media concern; he and his players insist there is no such worry on their end.

The beauty of this marathon series is that it affords the Knicks the chance to at least give it a shot. Speaking of which, perhaps the long pause will allow J.R. Smith to find his. And did we mention 40-year-old Jason Kidd is 0-for-13 from the field in his past six games?

Sleep well, Knicks. Saturday will be here before you know it.

New York Sports