Will Amar’e Stoudemire Be a Difference Maker for the Pacers vs. Knicks Series?

The New York Knicks/Indiana Pacers series will resume for Game 3 on Saturday night and the Knicks are hoping that Amar’e Stoudemire will be a difference maker.

Tied at 1-1, the veteran player is strong and a solid scorer, but there’s one potential challenge: He hasn’t played in a game for two-plus months. Earlier this week he admitted he was concerned about his cardio shape and now fans and the Pacers will get to see how he really looks on Saturday.

Amar'e Stoudemire

Amar’e Stoudemire

This may be a risky move but Knicks coach Mike Woodson thinks it’s worth it as the series moves to Indianapolis. Stoudemire is expected to play between 10 and 15 minutes to start things out.

Woodson said on Friday via ESPN, “If I didn’t think Amare was important to our team, then I wouldn’t even consider that. But Amare can still play, and I think he proved that in the short time he was back this last time.”

But for the Knicks, they have learned to play without Stoudemire and still win by grabbing a second seed in the Eastern Conference, entering the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and taking a big win over the Pacers in Game 2 to tie the series. A chemistry has developed without him and you can’t help but wonder if his return will “mess things up.”

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony

The team’s leading scorer Carmelo Anthony has performed well without Stoudemirein in the lineup–some could say better–and without him on the court, the Knicks went 43-18 vs 16-13 with him.

With both players now playing, Anthony will move to small forward while Stoudemire will shift to center. According to Vorped.com,  these two play their best when they’re on the right low post, with Anthony shooting 53.9% (146-for-271) while Stoudemire has found greater success at 69.5% (57-for-82).

Stoudemire also changes the Knicks lineups with his weak center defending. This season the Knicks set a league record with 891 3-pointers and this can be attributed to a smaller lineup with Anthony in a power forward role, enabling him to move in and out easily while allowing Tyson Chandler close to the paint.

On the other hand, the Knicks have been challenged by the Pacers’ physical advantage and their defense. Anthony got pushed around in Game 1 and the Pacers rebounded better than the Knicks (44 vs. 30) but for the second game, the Knicks rallied with a 105-79 win. Regardless, every night the Pacers bring a big front court: Roy Hibbert (7’2″), David West (6’9″), Tyler Hansbrough (6’9″) and Ian Mahinmi (6’11).

There’s is also the possibility that Stoudemire could end shaking things up just with his mere presence–to the Knicks advantage.

Teammate Raymond Felton said of Stoudemire’s return via ESPN, “He gives us another scorer, gives us another big guy. This is a big team we’re playing against, so any time we can get one of our bigs back, especially with him because he’s a great scorer, we know it’s going to help us.”

The Pacers have faced their own challenges with injured players and whether they should return or not. In March when the team was struggling without Danny Granger as he recovered from a left knee injury, questions arose about his return.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel considered letting Granger use the playoffs to return to shape but he knew it wasn’t the greatest situation. In the end, Granger underwent surgery on the knee and missed the rest of the season.

As for Saturday’s game, the Knicks will enter with a lot of confidence. In Game 2, they held the Pacers to no scoring in the fourth quarter for seven minutes and then took control via a 30-2 run to take their greatest playoff win since April 24, 1992.

But the Pacers are happy to return home and will get the win (-4, 183 o/u).

For the NBA Championship, the Knicks are +1800 while the Pacers are +2500.

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