<
>

W2W4: Knicks vs. Pacers

Every horror show has a sequel, something some of us learned in our teenage years when "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" were movies that were not followed by Roman numerals.

Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said it was "a horror show" when he watched the tape of the Knicks' pathetic effort from Sunday night, when they had a season-low 11 assists in a 106-93 loss to Indiana in which the Pacers not only snapped their six-game losing streak, but dominated inside so thoroughly that one might have mistaken them for a playoff team.

Of course, they were a playoff team until that six-game losing streak, pretty much locked into the eighth seed that brings with it a matchup with the top team in the Eastern Conference. Their slide has given renewed hope to the Pistons, Bucks and other bottom-feeders in the East (yes, even the New Jersey Nets, who ran their winning streak to five games last night by defeating the Boston Celtics at Meadowlands 2.0).

It will be the Knicks' job to give further hope to those contenders/pretenders by bouncing back from one of the more disturbing bad losses they've had since the Carmelo Anthony trade, and the first thing to look for is ball movement. That is one of the main tenets of D'Antoni's offensive system, but too often in Sunday night's game the Knicks got stuck in isolation situations early in the shot clock when they weren't jacking up ill-advised 3-pointers, especially Toney Douglas (1-for-8) and Chauncey Billups (0-for-7). They will have their share of isos, mind you, but those are designed to come late in the shot clock when the halfcourt offense has produced nothing better.

"I don't think we had the right energy and we got frustrated, and when we do that we just kind of revert back to just trying to beat people up on the offensive end," D'Antoni said.

HOW THE PACERS WILL PLAY

Even more troubling to the Knicks than their stagnant offense was the way the Pacers manhandled them down low on offense, relying onTyler Hansbrough more than usual as Danny Granger (flu) sat out. (Granger was listed this afternoon as a game-time decision.)

Hansbrough was 12-for-20 against the Knicks on Sunday, while Roy Hibbert was 5-for-7 and Dahntay Jones shot 5-for-11.

"We're a power-post team. We changed out emphasis when we made the coaching change to being a power-post team, emphasizing Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger in the post and sometimes Dahntay," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We have power forwards who can hurt you in the post and still guard small guys, 3-point shooters."

The quickness of Darren Collison also will be a concern, as Billups will need to chase him on the defensive end before running the offense on the other end with some semblance of fluidity. Sunday was Billups' first game back after missing six in a row with a deep thigh bruise, and the Knicks have bemoaned the fact that they lost him for a half-dozen games in which they are trying to reinvent themselves and learn each others tendencies -- all while fighting to maintain their hold on the sixth playoff position and possibly move up to fifth over the season's final 17 games.

"First of all, Carmelo's a terrific player, Amare's a terrific player and I like Landry Fields, but I gotta say I watched the Knicks play and in the history of all basketball, they may be the worst defensive team ever. They play zero defense and they're not going to do well in the long run," Charles Barkley opined last night on "The Late Show With David Letterman."

STAT (AND STATS) TO WATCH

Amare Stoudemire was noticeably passive on defense after picking up a quick early foul, which allowed the Pacers' bigs to get unfettered looks from in close as they shot above 60 percent for most of the night and finished at 57 percent.

Stoudemire also picked up two charging fouls, as did Anthony.

The Knicks also need to improve their 3-point shooting, which has been their bread and butter in their victories throughout the season. They made only seven of 30 attempts Sunday night, with Douglas and Billups accounting for half of those shots.

One positive stat from Sunday night was New York outrebounding Indiana 15-5 on the offensive boards, although the Knicks didn't do much with those second-chance opportunities and made only 30 field goals all night. In their previous game against Dallas, they made only 34 FGs but did have 19 assists. In their last victory, against Memphis last Wednesday, they had 47 buckets (and only four FTs) and 31 assists.

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

Tonight's game begin a stretch of five games in seven nights, meaning the Knicks are going to have to work out their ball movement and defensive intensity problems in games rather than practices. They play the Orlando Magic at MSG on Thursday, play at Detroit on Friday, then at Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon before returning home to face the Celtics next Monday. That game against Boston will mark the start of a stretch in which the Knicks will play seven of eight games at home before finishing the regular season with four of their final five games on the road.