Debate: Knicks-Pacers Game 6

The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks head back to Indianapolis for Saturday's Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Can the Pacers close out the series without George Hill? Has Paul George risen above Carmelo Anthony? And is Saturday a must-win for Indy? Our panel previews the action.

1. What does the absence of George Hill mean?

Ian Begley, ESPNNewYork.com: Those outside of Indy may not realize how important Hill is to the Pacers. So here's an easy way to define it: With Hill on the court, the Pacers have outscored opponents by 61 points in the playoffs. When he's on the bench, Indy's been outscored by 37.

Tim Donahue, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Paul George and Roy Hibbert (deservedly) get the attention for Indiana, but David West and George Hill are the additions that really brought the Pacer identity. Hill brings leadership, stability and points, and does it from arguably the Pacers' thinnest position. With Hill, the Pacers are clearly better than New York. Without him, they are in trouble.

Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: It means more playmaking responsibility for Paul George, which can be problematic given his penchant for turning the ball over. It means Lance Stephenson and that inconsistent Pacers bench will have to hit more shots from the perimeter. It means the Knicks can pressure D.J. Augustin and George and disrupt the Indy offense.

Mike Kurylo, KnickerBlogger: Obviously, Hill is an important cog for the Pacers. But I think Game 5 was more about the Knicks going back to what made them successful (smaller ball) than the absence of Hill. New York has suffered through injuries (Iman Shumpert, Amar'e Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, Melo's shoulder, Tyson Chandler's neck, Jason Kidd's bruised confidence) so as Reggie Miller says, "Next man up!"

Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: It's a blow to the Pacers. Not because Hill is an All-Star or anything, but because their two weaknesses are scoring and depth. They also have turnover issues. Hill had one of the best games of his career in Game 4 and his size gives Raymond Felton some issues. In a close series, it's a big deal.

2. What do you think about the league's concussion policy?

Begley: Love it. Unfortunately, we're just starting to see the harmful effects of concussions in the NFL and other contact sports. The NBA, to its credit, has taken precautionary steps to safeguard its players against the same outcome. The days of "just play through it" are hopefully behind us.

Donahue: I'm not qualified to render an opinion on its effectiveness, but the caution seems sensible. When my son suffered seizures as a toddler, one of my takeaways from the experience was how little even the best and brightest doctors really understood about the workings of the human brain. In that context, it is impossible to be too careful.

Gutierrez: It seems quite thorough, which is the only reasonable way to handle this particular injury. Of course there will be those who oppose it, like Chris Kaman and Monty Williams, but the league is attempting to protect players against themselves and their own coaches.

Kurylo: One thing that could eradicate professional sports as entertainment will be if those sports don't allow for a sizeable percentage of athletes to live normal healthy lives after their short playing careers are over. As an NFL fan, it's painful to watch the players you cheered for suffer after they retire. The NBA needs to do everything in their power to ensure the longterm fitness of their players, both mentally and physically.

Windhorst: I think it's an important step and a positive step. We're going to look back on concussions like we did on smoking and wonder how we didn't pay attention for so many years. That said, I get the feeling many fans don't care about it ... until their son or daughter gets wiped out playing soccer and has headaches for a month.

3. Is Paul George better than Carmelo Anthony?

Begley: Better? No. More complete? Yes. George has been the best all-around player on the floor in this series. In its first four games, George held Anthony to 31 percent shooting on plays in which he defended him. Incredible. But I won't say "better" because George's offense (35.7 percent from the field in this series) isn't there yet.

Donahue: No, and he probably won't be until he discovers a consistent offensive game. Defensively, George is elite. Offensively, he's mercurial, having yet to figure out an identity at that end of the court. If and when George does that, he'll be a far more complete – and thus, probably better -- player than Melo.

Gutierrez: George is a better defender, a more willing passer and therefore a better playmaker. But he's not a better player. Anthony's scoring ability is so far superior, it keeps him ahead of George by a decent margin. Now, it's a different answer if you ask which is the better teammate, or whose game is more conducive to winning.

Kurylo: No. George is a fine two-way player, but he's contributing to Indiana's main problem: turnovers. This series, George's turnover rate (17 percent) is more than double Melo's (8.1 percent). Anthony is also averaging nearly 10 points more per game, and he's going up against much tougher secondary defenders (Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, etc.).

Windhorst: You're hitting me in a sensitive spot because I've fallen for George in this series. But he can't dominant games like Melo can when he's on. Melo has him for now. But George is a defensive juggernaut.

4. Does Game 6 feel like a must-win for Indiana?

Begley: How can it be viewed as anything but a must-win? Indiana has been fantastic at home this postseason (5-0, average scoring differential of 15.4 points). They've been awful on the road. So Game 6 represents the best chance the young Pacers have to end the series. Who knows how they'd handle the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden in a Game 7?

Donahue: Yes. Indiana is not a good road team, primarily because its offense doesn't travel well. They scored five points per 100 possessions fewer on the road during the regular season, and 20 points per 100 fewer in the playoffs away from home. Game 6 is Indy's best chance to win this series.

Gutierrez: No. Not unless the Knicks win with an offensive barrage in Game 6. Because so far, the Knicks seem quite beatable in Madison Square Garden behind an offense that has only managed triple-figures once in this postseason. It would be difficult, but the Pacers can win again in New York, if necessary.

Kurylo: No. It's a must-win for New York. It wouldn't shock me at all if the Pacers dropped Games 5 and 6 and still come out victorious in Game 7, since the same outcome happened in 1995. On the other hand, if the Knicks lose, they go home.

Windhorst: Yes. They're 4-0 at home against the Knicks and 1-4 at MSG. That sort of says it all. Plus, I'm not sure this group is ready to win a Game 7 on the road.

5. Who wins Game 6?

Begley: If -- and this is a big if -- Hill doesn't play due to a concussion, I think the Knicks win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and force a Game 7. The Pacers showed in Game 5 that they are disjointed on offense and less effective on defense without Hill. The Knicks will exploit that on Saturday if he is out.

Donahue: Predictions always make me uncomfortable. The Pacers should maintain a slight edge in the Fieldhouse, even if Hill doesn't play, but they'll have zero margin for error. Indiana has to play better offensively, and I think even a mediocre showing at that end is enough for their defense to win the day.

Gutierrez: The Pacers. Hard to choose against a team that's undefeated at home, with all the wins coming by double-figures. Even if Hill doesn't play, the maligned Pacers bench will play better at home than it did in New York. And Roy Hibbert's playoff numbers at home are significantly better than on the road. Pacers wrap up the series in six games and move on to Miami.

Kurylo: I think the remaining game(s) will be close. These teams are diametrically opposed, yet evenly matched. It's pretty much a coin flip from here on out. Wait a second; let me go into my pocket. It's heads, so I say Knicks.

Windhorst: Pacers. I'm not convinced Game 5 was a true pivot point for New York. The Knicks didn't really break out of their offensive doldrums and I believe they're not going to. If Melo has another 35-point game in him, Game 6 is the time.

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Israel Gutierrez and Brian Windhorst cover the NBA for ESPN.com. Ian Begley covers the NBA for ESPN New York. Tim Donahue and Mike Kurylo contribute to the TrueHoop Network.

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